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London : Lindsey Press 
erinted fn Gre^t Hrifafff- 


Oxford : Basil Blackwell 


Edinburgh : William Blackwood & Sons 


by , 


M.A., D.Sc. 

External Examiner in Philosophy 

University of London 


Puhlislied in Great Britain 

hy the Lindsey Press 
Published in U.S.A. 1933 


Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2011 with funding from 

LYRASIS IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 



Preface ix 

Introduction — the background : historical outline 13 

Chapter i tradition and interpretation 24 










Appendix — ^additional references 229 



This book is offered, in the first instance, to thoughtful persons 
who, whether or not they contemplate a systematic study of 
Christian theology, are interested in the history of the subject, but 
who are often, at the outset, bewildered by the massively detailed 
expositions in the larger works on the History of Christian 

I have, I hope, been helped to avoid a mere ' sketch ' of the 
main aspects of the subject by approaching it in the Hght of 
certain principles of fundamental importance. 

(i) As a matter of fact, there has been a ' main stream ' in the 
history of Christian Thought, in which doctrines and behefs 
which have been historically vital to Christianity have survived 
through periods sometimes of embittered controversy and con- 
fusion. But it has not been a mere ' survival '. The canonical 
Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments have been, and are, 
its primary source. But the authority of the Scriptures and their 
interpretation inevitably gave rise to questions which could not 
be directly decided by quotations from the Scriptures themselves, 
and which, therefore, necessarily led to a development of 
Christian doctrine. 

(ii) The very idea of development, in reference to the history 
of Christian doctrine, brings us to face the conclusion powerfully 
argued by the greatest Christian scholar of the last century. 
Adolf Hamack, with a vast knowledge of the relevant facts, 
brought to his interpretation of the facts a guiding idea of which 
there is no proof adequate to the radical conclusion which he 
derived from it, and which is defended, though in a less extreme 
form, by some recent theologians. The question is therefore one 
of contemporary importance. Hamack saw in the history of 
Christian doctrines (which he always described as ' dogmas '), and 
in the history of the Church at large, an ahen philosophical 
method and an illegitimate growth of ecclesiastical authority. 


The Gospel of Jesus was changed from its original form, by the 
acceptance of Jewish ' eschatological ' hopes, by the intrusion of 
Greek and Roman theories about God and the Soul, and above 
all by the Logos doctrine, resulting in a philosophy unfit for the 
expression of the Gospel. Christianity continued more and more 
to lose its original character, becoming an authoritative Church, 
prescribing behef, ritual, and practical duties. This, then, is held 
to have been an overlapping of the teachings of the Founder by 
dogmatic, ecclesiastical, and ritual excrescences which have 
nothing to do with the authentic message of Jesus himself. It is 
true that the series of changes, historically inevitable as they were, 
did involve a spiritual danger, because, as time went on, more 
stress was laid on the stated content of faith than on faith as an inner 
disposition of the soul. For purposes of unity and fellowship, it 
was easier to deal with characteristics which were comparatively 
external; and this was accompanied by a similar movement of 
thought and practice in the history of the Church. But Hamack's 
estimate of the history is not only condemnatory to a degree but 
is profoundly pessimistic. The endowments of man's nature 
include a mind and a reasoning faculty. Christianity became 
theological because man is rational. As for the ' intrusion ' of 
philosophical ideas, it did not go far enough. Some embittered 
and confused controversies would have died a ' natural death ' 
much sooner than they did, if more, not less, had been learnt from 
Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics. It has been said that some of 
these controversies were about nothing but words. Those who 
think so have not reahsed what the issues really meant to those 
who contended so strenuously about them. We do not need to 
go far beneath the surface to discern their vital relation to some of 
the controversies which trouble our minds today. 

(iii) It is widely recognised, at the present time, that history 
must be related not only in terms of events but in terms of the 
persons who make the events. Above all, in the case of Chris- 
tianity, the influence of dominant personaHties is a standing refuta- 
tion of the ' impersonal ' view of history. I have therefore 
endeavoured to gather the essentially important material — from 
the later apostohc age to the age of Augustine — round the per- 


sonality and work of men who may, in the full meaning of the 
words, be described as creative leaders of Christian thought. 
Each of them, directly or indirectly, gave a vital impulse to the 
movement of the great Christian doctrines — the value of Tradi- 
tion, the Being of God and the Creative Word, the nature of 
Man, the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and 
the Trinity, the Church and the Sacraments. In each case, it 
seemed possible to state the essential meaning of that ' vital 
impulse ' vdthout dwelling at length on questions which (though 
they may have a historical interest of their own) are none the less 
' side-issues '. This involves a distinction between the essential 
and the unessential, and a special emphasis on what is essential. 

The references at the end of the book will reveal the extent of 
my indebtedness to others. The works referred to which have 
been pubhshed in Enghsh will provide guidance for students 
desiring further systematic study but who do not read in any 
language but their own. It is a pleasure to acknowledge per- 
mission given by Messrs. James Nisbet, Ltd., to quote from Pro- 
fessor C. H. Dodd's book According to the Scriptures, and to the 
Student Christian Movement Press, Ltd., to quote from Pro- 
fessor S. L. Greenslade's book Schism in the Early Church. 

I may add a short statement on my own behalf. Nothing that 
is said, here or in the following pages, about the Arian movement 
in the fourth century, imphes any pre-judgment on the ' Arian- 
ism ' maintained, twelve centuries later, by some able theologians 
in this country. The revival of a doctrine is an entirely different 
question from that of its first origin. But I beheve that the 
victory of Arianism in the fourth century would have resulted in 
the destruction of everything that is rationally and spiritually 
valuable in Christianity. The result of the conflict was a con- 
viction which it was impossible for the Arians at that time to hold : 
that there is an essential relation of man's nature to the Nature of 
God. It was confined to Christ alone. The whole endeavour 
was at first concentrated on the explanation, in terms of thought 
and feeling, of the Personahty of him who was at once Son of Man 
and Son of God. The Hfe and work and teaching of Christ, in a 
word, his whole Personahty, must be knovm to be real before the 


idea and ideal of the essential relation of man to God could be 
carried further ; but this, once known to be real, must inevitably 
determine the whole issue. ' The Incarnation is true, not of 
Christ exclusively, but of man universally, and of God ever- 
lastingly '. The Light which creates our higher hfe, our higher 
human Hfe of thought and feeling, is ' of one substance ' with the 
very being of God. Of this universal truth Christ became the 
Revealer, with a personal power destroying every illusion which 
would hide it. 



The imperial constitution of Rome may be considered to have 
begun in the year 27 B.C., when the conqueror of Antony at 
Actium was summoned, by a world worn out by twenty years of 
war and anarchy, to the task of estabhshing a government which, 
without destroying the traditions of the repubhc, would provide 
for the centraHsation of authority which experience had shov^oi 
to be necessary for the stabiHty and integrity of the empire. 
Octavian was well fitted for the task. Cool-headed, far-sighted, 
opportunist, tactful, for over forty years he governed, organised, 
conquered, and left behind him a coherent and weU-administered 
empire. In recognition of his achievements the Senate conferred 
on him the title ' Augustus ' — a title which he was very willing 
to accept. His successor, Tiberius, began by ruling in the spirit 
of Augustus, but ended by creating a reign of terror when no 
prominent man in Rome felt that his Hfe was safe. During the 
next thirty years we see on the imperial throne Caius Caesar 
(' CaHgula '), vain, cruel, half-insane; Claudius, personally of 
weak health and with a stammering tongue, but a skilful organiser 
and empire-builder, whose fate was to be murdered (by poison) 
in the year a.d. 54, thus leaving room for the army to secure the 
accession of Nero, whose memory was abhorred even by the 
corrupt Roman society, who suffered from his cruelties, and by 
respectable Romans everywhere, whose convictions and prejudices 
he had outraged. The death of Nero (a.d. 68) was followed by a 
year of anarchy, during which the army passed completely ' out 
of hand ', and three emperors in succession — Galba, Otho, and 
ViteUius — met with violent deaths. Vespasian, then known as a 
powerful mihtary leader, had been appointed to suppress the 
Jewish rebeUion which broke out in the year 66. His victorious 
progress through Galilee and Samaria was regarded as redeeming 



the ' majesty ' of the empire, and when he heard of the death of 
Nero, he gave the command of the Jewish war to his son Titus, 
and set out for Rome. A disastrous civil war broke out between 
the legions who had supported Vitelhus and those who were 
determined to secure the accession of Vespasian, but it ended in 
the decisive victory of the latter, and the triumphal entry of 
Vespasian and Titus into Rome (a.d. 70). 

Vespasian perceived that the empire was in actual danger of 
breaking up, and that his greatest task was one of reform, and 
above all to place the authority of the emperor on the broader 
and firmer basis of the goodwill of the provinces. In the eyes of 
the Roman Government, one of the least important events 
appeared to be the constitution of Judaea as a subordinate Roman 
province, to be administered by ' Procurators ', but under the 
military protection of the province of Syria : with an interval 
A.D. 41-44, when Claudius appointed Herod Agrippa as ' King '. 
This is the Herod referred to in the thirteenth chapter of the Book 
of Acts. The ' Agrippa ' named in the twenty-fifth chapter 
appears to have been in charge of the region of the city in which 
the Temple stood, the contemporary Procurator being ' Festus '. 
One of the greatest students of Roman imperiahsm, Theodor 
Mommsen, observed that it was the extreme of pohtical folly not 
to place a governor of high rank, with legionary troops, in 
Judaea. The Procurators were in effect minor officials; and if 
Pontius Pilate (Procurator from a.d. 26 to 37) is an example, they 
were incapable of understanding or controlling the population of 
the province, and least of all the population of the capital city, the 
seat of the Temple. 

The rebellion which had broken out in the year 66 spread over 
the whole country, and at first appeared to be successful. But 
after Vespasian had suppressed it in the north, and had appointed 
his elder son Titus to crush it finailly, Jerusalem was besieged and 
captured, after a desperate resistance, in the course of wliich the 
Temple was destroyed and the greater part of the city reduced to 
ruins. Judaea was made a Roman province, independently of 
Syria. The Jews who had settled in parts of the empire, and who 
were spoken of as the Jews of * the Dispersion ', still nourished 


thoughts of revenge ; and even the generation who had not wit- 
nessed the destruction of Jerusalem were taught to hate the Ro- 
mans among whom they dwelt. The absence of the Emperor 
Trajan in the east gave them the opportunity. In Egypt, Cyrene, 
Cyprus, they rose and massacred without mercy. Trajan sent 
one of his ablest generals to crush this outbreak ; and we may well 
beheve the Jewish writers who state that the Romans in their turn 
took a savage vengeance. A generation passed. The Jews of 
' the Dispersion ' had exhausted their strength. The Jews in 
Palestine remained on the whole quiet, until in a.d. 132 the 
Emperor Hadrian visited Jerusalem, and decided to have the city 
rebuilt for a Greek population, with the status of a Roman 
colonia, into which no Jew was to be allowed to enter. In aU this, 
there was dehberate intention. The destruction of the city was 
not enough. Even in ruins, it could still appeal, powerfully, 
perhaps more powerfiilly, to the worshippers of the God of 
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Therefore Roman state- worship was 
to be introduced. This roused the Palestinian Jews to fury. At 
first their resistance, carried on by skilfbl ' guerilla ' methods, was 
successful ; but the end was inevitable. Once more, Rome took 
her vengeance. Multitudes were sold into slavery. The city was 
rebuilt. No Jew was allowed to enter, though Palestinian 
Christians were given entry, and the Christian community in 
Jerusalem increased. The original Christian community in Jeru- 
salem, or those of them who survived after a.d. 70, were 
scattered by Hadrian's edict. 

The Roman Empire reached its greatest extent imder Hadrian ; 
and what has been called ' the Golden Age of the Antonines ' 
followed. It is true that we see a period of increasingly successful 
achievements in the externals of civihsation, pohtical administra- 
tion, trade and communication, roads and transport, industry and 
handicrafts. On the inner side, deeper than all this, there are 
signs, beyond mistaking, of a deep despondency overtaking the 
mind of the empire. Thoughtful men were labouring to fmd a 
remedy for what looked like a mortal sickness ; and with a true 
instinct, they turned to those problems which arise out of the 
primary human propensities — self-preservation and reproduction. 


The old civilisation had been recklessly wasteful in both these 
respects, allowing very Httle value to human hfe, and permitting 
every kind of abuse in the indulgence of appetite. 

It is also true that there were redeeming forces at work. 
Christianity did not come into a world entirely foreign to it. The 
monotheism of the greater Stoic thinkers, ideals of the soul's 
possible likeness to God, and of its destiny after death, were far 
from being so foreign to Christianity that Christian thinkers took 
no interest in them. In particular, the Socratic doctrine of the 
soul, whole-heartedly adopted by Plato, became one of the most 
decisive changes in the history of European thought, and did more 
than any other development in Greek thought to prepare the way 
for Christianity. Before the time of Socrates, the ' soul ' was 
generally imagined as it had been in primitive ' animism ', though 
even less personahsed — a vaporous substance necessary for physical 
life, capable of surviving bodily hfe only as a shadowy ghost. 
For the Stoics, it was something far more important. It was a 
part of the divine fire which, though beheved to be the seat of 
actual and ideal Reason, was not conceived as other than material. 
But Socrates and Plato had taught that the soul was the whole 
rational and moral personality and that the care of the soul was the 
most important thing in life. 

The Christian Fathers denounced popular polytheism and 
popular superstitions, though they retained a fimi behef in the 
agency of ' demons ' as active spirits of evil. The warfare of 
beHevers was with these, and the pagan deities were beheved to be 
manifestations of these evil beings. But notwithstanding all this, 
the early Fathers, with the conspicuous exceptions of Tertulhan 
and Tatian, could appreciate what in contemporary diought was 
in harmony with Christian doctrines and ideals. A remarkable 
example is seen in a quotation made by Lactantius from Cicero. 
Lactantius introduces the quotation after he has set forth a con- 
ception of the divine Law, the Law which is immanent in die 
nature of things and universal : ' dei lex, ilia sancta, ilia coelestis, 
quam M. Tullius paene divina voce defiuit '. The quotation from 
Cicero, accurately rendered, is as follows : ' There shall no longer 
be one law at Athens, another at Rome, one law today, anodier 


tomorrow; but the same Law, everlasting and unchangeable, 
shall bind all nations at all times ; and there shall be one common 
Master and Ruler of all, even God, the creator and arbitrator of 
this Law ; and he who will not obey it shall be an exile from him- 
self, and despising the nature of man, shall by that very act suffer 
the greatest of all penalties, even though he may have escaped 
from all other penalties that can be imagined.' 

The type of Stoicism which Roman thinkers learnt was largely 
free from the rigidity and ethical paradoxes of the original Greek 
doctrine, but its pantheism was dehberately retained. The entire 
universe is a single unitary living whole, embodying a divine 
power which is in a condition of eternal activity. With this 
philosophy conceptions derived from the ideahsm of Plato were 
intermingled, so that the Stoicism with which the early Fathers 
were acquainted may be described as a ' Platonised Stoicism ', 
which could rise to high ideals. But two questions of far-reaching 
significance remain. How far, if at all, could these systems act as 
a restraining force on the will of the average man ? How far did 
they really set him free from his inherited superstitions? As 
regards the latter question. Stoicism left to ' the average man ' 
all his gods. From the point of view of Stoic erdightenment, the 
greater gods were not independent or semi-personal beings, but 
various manifestations of the one supreme Deity embodied in the 
earth and heavens. Nevertheless, this complacent view of the 
gods of popular beHef left ample room for the survival of super- 

More serious is the question, what kind of inducement, or 
persuasion, did Stoicism offer to men's personal wills to devote 
themselves to righteousness? The answer is this. The restraint 
or inducement was essentially an intellectual process. The Stoic 
' self-respect ' was the necessary consequence of the individual's 
intellectual conception of his place in the universe. The Stoic 
' freedom ', which was an ideal rather than an actual quahty of 
human nature, meant that man is capable through knowledge of 
bringing his wiU into conformity with the universal Reason. We 
fmd, in their doctrine, no conception of development in reference 
to society or to the individual life — only an eternal recurrence; 


no message for women or children, or for human beings sunk in 
ignorance and vice : in a word, no gospel of redemption. 

People who felt the need of an effective and moving personal 
contact with a saving power which was more than human, a con- 
tact which they could not fmd in the popular philosophies of the 
time or in the ceremonies maintained under the supervision of 
the State, found it in the so-called ' Mystery Rehgions '. These 
are better described as ' secret-society religions ', because their 
participants were pledged not to reveal the ceremonies of initiation 
and other ritual carried on in them. They formed associations 
wliich banded men together without regard to their social stand- 
ing : the citizen and the stranger, the free man and the slave, were 
here united in fellowship. Above all, a man became a member 
of such an association solely by a personal and individual act of 
adherence. The Neo-platonist Christian Bishop Synesius of 
Cyrene, writing early in the fifth century, attributes to Aristotle 
the striking observation that in the ' mystery rehgions ' : ' you 
have not to learn anything but to be given a certain feeling '. 
These associations created a clergy different from the flamines and 
pontifices. State officials who did certain things on certain days. 
These new priests were spiritual directors; they assumed a 
pastoral relation to their disciples. On both sides, parallels in 
faith and ritual between the Christian sacraments and the 
* mysteries ' were perceived ; and the Fathers were convinced that 
Satan had inspired the ' mysteries ' as spiritually poisonous imita- 
tions of Christian rites. 

There was one secret-society rehgion which, as it spread over 
the West, appeared to be a serious rival to Christianity. This 
was ' Mithraism '. It was based on Persian Zoroastrianism, with 
an accumulation of ritual and myth which can be traced back to 
primitive nature-worship ; but certain fundamental characteristics 
of its doctrine and ritual resembled corresponding teachings in 
Christianity. Like Christianity, it taught that this world is the 
arena of an unrelenting and unavoidable conflict of evil ^^■ith good, 
in which the final victory wiU be widi good, and that heaven is, 
Hterally, not metaphorically, ' above '. It formed communities 
or brotherhoods, with a sacred common meal. Its moraUty, so 


far as can be traced, was one of abstinence and continence, bodily 
mortification and asceticism. Its deity, ' Mithras ', was a mediator 
between this world and the next, who would return to earth, 
awaken the dead, and judge between the righteous and the 
wicked, granting immortahty to the one, and annihilation to the 
other. What is most significant is the fact that while the secret- 
society religions from the Near East taught salvation and immor- 
tahty, only Mithraism and Christianity fought a holy war against 
evil. Mithraic duahsm produced action. And yet Mithraism 
disappeared from the pubhc eye when imperial protection was 
withdrawn. We may say, with Cumont, that it would have 
disappeared in any case, ' not only because it was encumbered 
with the heritage of a superannuated past, but also because its 
Hturgy and its theology had retained so much of Asiatic super- 
stition '. Cumont adds that the survival of Mithraism would 
have perpetuated all the aberrations of pagan mysticism together 
with the fantastic astronomical and physical ideas on which its 
' theology ' rested. 

The similarities which aroused the indignation of the Fathers 
may be explained, not by studying this or that detail of resem- 
blance, but in certain broad facts of common need, and the ways 
in which these, long ignored or quiescent, assert themselves 
afresh at certain periods of history ; and by recognising that at 
each period there is an atmosphere, a milieu, in which things loom 
large that were only vaguely perceived before. During a period 
of fusion and recasting in rehgion, we should look, not for con- 
scious borrowing or mere conglomeration, but for traces of a 
natural process, seen in the region of abstract speculation and in 
the region of fervent popular faith. The word ' syncretism ' has 
come into use to describe this process of fusion, and confusion, in 
which philosophical speculations and rehgious behefs were inter- 
mingled. We are not here concerned with their origin and his- 
tory in the East ; but we have a fairly definite view of the ' com- 
plexes ' — to use a modem psychological term^ — which their fusion 
created in the Graeco-Roman world. 

The result, when we point to what was most fundamental in it, 
was a dualism which affirmed — as a matter of experience and behef 


— a sheer opposition between the natural world of the transient 
and perishable, the world of sense-perception, and a supersensuous 
world regarded as divine. This duaHsm proved to be the right 
expression for the inner discord which ran through the entire hfe 
of that ageing world. Hamack has pointed out that in the vast 
variety of forms assumed by the religious syncretism of the period 
there are certain features which can be stated as generahties when 
detached from their historical settings. They all arise from the 
radical duahsm of which we have spoken, (i) The antithesis of 
the divine and the earthly created ideas of the entire transcendence 
of God, and a depreciation of the world, (ii) From this followed 
a sharp distinction between the soul or spirit and the body : the 
spirit, coming from some higher region, was more or less defded 
by its connection with the body, and this connection must be 
broken, or at least its effects counteracted, (iii) Hence arose a 
dominant desire for redemption from the body : for this, know- 
ledge, in the deeper sense of enhghtenment, was beHeved to be an 
indispensable first step, but only a superhuman powder can dehver 
the soul. The redeeming power was present in the world, some- 
times in a personal form, as in the case of ' Mithras '. Hamack 
observes that ' the general result was the substitution of rehgious 
individualism and humanity for nationahty '.^ 

We quoted above (p. i6) a strongly monotheistic statement 
of cosmopohtan idealism preserved by Lactantius from the De 
Repuhlica of Cicero. Cicero's interest in all the greater Greek 
thinkers must be judged from the point of view of his purpose. 
This was, to awaken in his countrymen an inclination towards 
philosophical culture. But in one respect he expounded a great 
principle almost as a Gospel, chiefly in his De Repuhlica and De 
Legibus, neither of which has come dov^oi to us in its complete 
form. The principle impHes the idea and ideal of a universal Law, 
grounded at once on Nature and on Reason, abiding above all 
human designs and purposes and all liistorical changes in human 
hfe. It is the source of man's capacity to rise to the knowledge 
of God and of the basic ideas of morahty, on which the right rela- 
tions of human beings to one another depend : a human capacits- 
which is innate in the sense diat Nature, or die Deit}% has implanted 


it in every man along with his reason and his instinct of self- 
preservation. Cicero understood that the State, as it was, had not 
arisen from any voluntary arrangement made by individuals ; it 
was a product of history. The eternal principles^ — in other words, 
the ever-vahd principles — of the Law of Nature are mingled with 
the historical institutions of positive Law. Some of his statements 
imply that the ideal State is the Empire of Rome, not as it was, but 
as it ought to be and could be. Much of what has survived of the 
second Book of the De Reptihlica is occupied with an elaboration 
of this idea. Virgil ideahsed it with poetic fervour. The supre- 
macy of Rome, in his vision, assumed the aspect of an ordinance 
of Providence, to which all previous history had been leading up; 
it meant the estabHshment of an Empire to which no hmits of 
time or place were set, and in which the human race would find 
ordered peace and settled government. The mission of Rome was 
not only regere imperio populos, not only to estabhsh law and order 
among the peoples, but pads imponere moreni, to make peace the 
habit and custom of the world.^ 

The facts of contemporary social and poHtical experience com- 
pelled a radical revision of the optimistic outlook of Cicero and 
Virgil. This appears, for example, plainly in the political writings 
of Seneca. It was assumed that there had been a time when men 
lived together in peace, in freedom and equality, having all things 
in common : coercive government was not needed, for the advice 
and guidance of the wiser men was sufficient. This was the age 
of the pure Law of Nature. Then followed long ages of 
degeneration. Not ' each for all ' but ' each for himself ' became 
the rule of hfe. The good things of the world were made into 
exclusive private possessions. The benevolent guidance of the 
wise gave way to the rule of kings and princes, sometimes tyrants. 
Laws became necessary to control rulers and subjects alike. 
PoHtical organisation therefore was made necessary by the actual 
evils of human nature. It represents a secondary or imperfect 
Law of Nature, made necessary by divine ordinance. The State, 
or the organised political government, though it may be admini- 
stered by unworthy or evil men, is a divine institution. 

The classical conception, thus briefly outlined, was accepted by 


the Church, and became a normal part of the mental furniture of 
Christendom, without becoming the subject of any considerable 
controversy ; but of necessity it was brought into connection with 
the v/hole scheme of Christian doctrine, and in particular with the 
Biblical narrative of the Fall. A typical example of the way in 
which the idea of a Law of Nature was treated in that connection 
is given by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons during the last quarter of the 
second century : ' Men had turned away from God, and had 
become so like wild animals as to look even on those of their own 
order as enemies. They were driven by passions of fear and 
greed. Therefore, since they had lost the fear of God, He set 
over them the fear of man, in order that being subject to human 
authority and restrained by man-made laws, they might achieve 
some degree of justice and mutual toleration. For this reason also 
the rulers themselves, when they execute the laws as the clothing 
{indumentum) of justice, shall not be called in question for their 
conduct nor be liable to any penalties. But when they subvert 
justice by illegal and tyrannous acts, they shall perish in their deeds, 
for the just judgment of God reaches to all alike and never fails. 
Earthly rule therefore has been appointed by God for the welfare 
of the nations.' The fundamental idea is indicated in the conclud- 
ing sentence of this statement.^ 

The essential meaning of the doctrine, as it was understood in 
general by Christian thinkers, was stated by Ambrose of Milan, 
in more than one important passage. For example, after quoting 
the words of Paul in the Epistle to the Romans (ii. 14-15), 
Ambrose says : ' If men had been able to foUow the Natural Law 
which God our Creator had planted in the heart of each one, 
there would have been no need for the Law that was inscribed on 
tables of stone. That divine Law is not written ; it is inborn ; 
it is not learnt by reading anything ; it finds expression through a 
capacity native to our minds, rising as it were like a stream whose 
source is in the nature of every one of us.' "* 

It must be remembered that die conception of ' die universe ' 
held by the Fathers was not based solely on the opening chapters 
of the Book of Genesis. The conviction that the earth is at rest 
in the centre of ' the universe ' appeared to be warranted by the 


plain evidence of the senses ; and, though it had been questioned 
by some Greek mathematicians, it estabhshed itself as a scientific- 
ally verifiable truth. The Alexandrian mathematicians regarded 
any other supposition as absurd. The alternation of day and 
night was accounted for by assuming a revolution of the solar 
system round the earth. All that was known of the solar system 
was that it consisted of seven ' planets ' all revolving round the 
earth : the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and 
Saturn. But their movements were observed to be irregular; 
and the Alexandrian mathematicians, among whom the greatest 
name is that of Ptolemy (who died in Alexandria near the end of 
the second century), worked out a theory that the movements of 
each ' planet ' were the result of combined circular motions. The 
scientific meaning of the theory was entirely mathematical ; but 
Aristotle, by what has been described as ' one of the most retro- 
grade steps ever taken in the history of science ', had long pre- 
viously decided that the motions of the ' planets ' must be due to 
the rotation of celestial ' spheres ' each bearing a ' planet ' and 
revolving round the earth. This was accepted as scientific truth. 
When therefore the Fathers assimilated the theory of the ' spheres ' 
to a series of ' heavens ' — or when, for instance, Origen supposed 
that the heavenly Bodies were animated by immaterial rational 
beings — they beheved that they were making use of the best 
knowledge of the time.^ 



The part played by Tradition in the history of human communi- 
ties and the development of social Hfe is a subject which needs 
much more comprehensive investigation than has yet (so far as 
w^e are av^^are) been given to it by students of sociology and social 
psychology. Great as the influence of Tradition has been in the 
history of religions, it has none the less entered into every branch 
of communal hfe which has had a liistory that can be traced. Here 
we are concerned with it only as it has entered into the develop- 
ment of the Christian rehgion. 

The Enghsh word itself needs brief notice. Its Latin original 
meant the act of handing over or dehvering up, and was in use 
as a legal term. Later, it acquired the figurative meaning of a 
doctrine or method of instruction, not always with a favourable 
implication, as when Quintilian, writing near the end of the first 
century, referred to the jejuna atque arida traditio of the gram- 
marians. Later still, by a further extension of meaning, it came 
to imply not only a doctrine or method of instruction but the 
' handing on ' or transmission of it. Hence the special use of the 
Enghsh word, in its rehgious reference, as implying a ' deposit ', 
to be entrusted to ' depositaries ', hke trustees, to be preserved 
and handed on. 

When we turn to the New Testament, we find that in express- 
ing the idea of Tradition two of the terms used are specially 
significant, (i) The word which we transhterate as pamtheke 
implies something committed to our charge as a trust. This 
emphasis is rightly brought out in the Authorised Version : 
' Keep that which is committed to thy trust ' (I Tim. vi. 20, and 
II Tim. i. 12) ; ' The faith once for all delivered to the saints ' 
(Jude, 3). (ii) The word wliich we transliterate as paradosis, 
usually rendered ' tradition ' in the Enghsh versions, sometimes 



bears the same emphasis : ' The traditions as I deUvered them to 
you ' (I Cor. vi. 2, and II Thess. ii. 15), But in several other 
passages the emphasis is directly on what had been handed down, 
and is false, as in Matt, xv and Mark vii, and occasionally in the 
Epistles, ' the traditions of men ', defmitely false traditions (Col. 
ii. 8 and Gal. i. 4, ' the traditions of my fathers ', referring to the 
days of his Jewish faith). 

The difference between the Tradition which is vital to Judaism 
as a religion and the nature of the Tradition which is vital to the 
Christian rehgion is fundamental, (i) The Tradition entering 
into and forming Judaism as a rehgion had its source in reverence 
for the Torah, the entire ethical, rehgious, and ceremonial content 
of the Books bearing the name of Moses — a reverence which 
tended to overflow and cover the gradually enlarging accumula- 
tion of explanatory comments and analytical deductions from the 
Torah. But the essential divine revelation was the Torah itself, 
and the growing stream of Tradition always had a direct or 
indirect reference to that idea, which was central in the rehgion 
of the Jews, (ii) The Christian Tradition had its source in a 
Person, and that Person was himself the divine revelation. There- 
in Hes the deepest root of the difference between Judaism as a 
rehgion and Christianity : a difference which nothing can ever 

When we take the Gospel records as they stand and as the Fathers 
read them, the question at once arises : How far do they represent 
the position taken by Jesus in reference to the Jewish Tradition? 
It seems to move between two extremes, (i) In the words 
recorded in the Fourth Gospel (iv. 22-25) • ' The true worshippers 
must worship the Father in spirit and in truth ', ' neither in this 
mountain not yet in Jerusalem ', but throughout the world, 
(ii) In the words recorded in Matt. v. 18 : ' TiU heaven and eardi 
pass away, not an iota, not a comma, will pass from the Law until 
it is all in force ' (Moffatt's version). If we read the records with 
historical imagination (and not as if we were interpreting a legal 
document) it becomes possible to obtain a clear view. 

We have referred to the gradual accumulation of explanatory 
comments and analytical deductions from the Torah. Much 


of this was an elaboration of oral tradition, believed to have come 
down from the earhest days — ' the Tradition of the Ancients '. 
As it increased in extent and importance, it required Rabbinical 
Schools to preserve and expound it. Jesus was certainly acquainted 
with the kind of work carried on in these schools, Plis opposition 
to them was not based on a denial of all value to the Jewish 
'deposit ' ; neither was it based only on the unfimess of some of 
its guardians to be, for their fellow-countrymen of the Jewish 
faith, what they claimed to be. The question at issue was larger 
than this. The opposition of Jesus was to the basic assumption on 
which the exclusively legal interpretation of rehgion and moraht\' 
rested. The case of the Sabbath Law is decisive : ' The Sabbath 
was made for man, not man for the Sabbath ' — thus laying do"v\Ti 
not a prescriptive law but a test-principle by which all human 
institutions are to be judged. And in answer to the question 
which was debated, with various answers, in the Rabbinical 
Schools, Christ took from the Jewish Scriptures words which are 
as httle legal as it is possible for them to be. They do not pre- 
scribe or forbid any particular acts : they apply to the disposition 
which man is to have towards God and towards his ' neighbour ' — 
not only to his fellow-Jew but to his fellow-man. To these 
Christ added, again not as a prescriptive law, but as a rule for 
practical guidance : ' Whatever you would that men should do to 
you, do you the same to them.' 

This is decisive in reference to the position taken by Jesus 
Christ not only to the purely legal aspects of the Jewish tradition 
but also to the utterances of the prophets which express ethical 
and reUgious truths and their issues. To these, Christ gave an 
eternal value. He entered into the great ideas of the prophets and 
psalmists, and unfolded and enlarged their meaning — dehberately 
and with discrimination choosing them for that purpose. This 
was their true fulfdment. From this point of view, it is scarcely 
possible to exaggerate the significance of what is recorded, in 
reference to the early days of Christ's pubHc ministr\% of what 
occurred in die Synagogue at Nazareth (Luke iv. 17-21, compared 
with Isaiah Ixi. 1-2). Here we may read the meaning of the 
words ' I am come not to destroy but to fulfd ' : and also a warn- 


ing as to the deeper meaning of the Greek verb rendered ' fulfil ' — 
the same verb which is almost uniformly so rendered in the Eng- 
hsh versions of those passages w^hich refer to the relation of the 
higher teaching of the Old Testament to Christianity. It is by 
no means alv^ays to be understood as a pious factual foretelling of 
what as a matter of fact occurred in and through the work of 
Christ. There are instances of this kind in the New Testament, 
but they are exceptional (for example, Matt, ii. 15, compared with 
Hosea xi. i, the dehverance of the Israelites from Egypt). 

The personal power of the Master and his teaching moved with 
vital force in the minds of the greater theologians of the Apostohc 
Age — Paul, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the 
author of the Fourth Gospel. They appealed to the Scriptures for 
what in modem phraseology may be described as a ' philosophy 
of history ', essentially a rehgious philosophy, ' the determinate 
Counsel of God '. The people of Israel had failed to understand 
or to ' fulfil ' their destiny ; but what was God-given in that 
destiny was ' fulfilled ' in the work of Christ, in his death and his 
resurrection ; ' Men of Israel, hsten to my words. Jesus the Nazarene, 
a man accredited to you through miracles, wonders, and signs, 
which God performed by him among you, as you yourselves 
know — this Jesus, betrayed in the predestined course of God's 
dehberate purpose, you got wicked men to nail to the Cross and 
murder : but God raised him by checking the pangs of death. 
Death could not hold him.' Then, quoting the sixteenth Psalm, 
the words of which express ' a prevision of the resurrection of the 
Christ ', the Apostle proceeds : ' This Jesus God raised, as we can 
all bear witness. Uphfted then by God's right hand, and receiving 
from the Father the long-promised Holy Spirit, he has poured on 
us what you now see and hear. ... So let all the house of Israel 
understand beyond a doubt that God has made him both Lord and 
Christ, this very Jesus whom you have crucified ' (Acts ii. 22-24, 
32, 33, 36 : quoted from Moffatt's version). 

The whole question of the range of meaning given to the Greek 
verb rendered ' fulfil ' needs examination. This has been done 
with marked thoroughness by Professor C. H. Dodd, whose 
essential conclusions are thus summarised: ' (i) The evidence 


suggests that at a very early date a certain method of biblical studv 
was established and became part of the equipment of Christian 
evangelists and teachers. This method was largely employed 
orally, an i found literary expression only sporadically and incom- 
pletely, but it is presupposed in our earhest sources. (2) The 
method included, first of all, the selection of certain large sections 
of the Old Testament scriptures, especially from Isaiah, Jeremiah. 
and certain minor prophets, and from the Psalms. These sections 
were understood as wholes, and particular verses or sentences were 
quoted from them rather as pointers to the whole context than as 
constituting testimonies in and for themselves. At the same time, 
detached sentences from other parts of the Old Testament could 
be adduced to illustrate or elucidate the meaning of the main 
section under consideration. But in the fundamental passages it is 
the total context that is in view, and is the basis of the argument. 
(3) The relevant scriptures were understood and interpreted upon 
intelhgible and consistent principles, as setting forth " the deter- 
minate Counsel of God " which was fulfilled in the gospel facts, 
and consequently as fixing the meaning of those facts.' ^ 

In the vital question of the authority of Scripture (so far as this 
can be distinguished from its interpretation) early Christian behef 
was deeply affected by the Jewish tradition. According to the 
Jewish faith, the Torah had been set forth in a series of narratives, 
commandments, and messages from God Himself; and when the 
books containing the Torah were combined with the prophetical 
books and later writings, it was natural that the rehgious venera- 
tion felt for the Torah should extend to the whole collection, and 
the Scriptures afterwards called by Christians ' The Old Testa- 
ment ' be placed in a unique position by themselves. This behef 
in the authority of the Old Testament was inherited by the Chris- 
tian Church ; but the Church, as we have seen, exercised the right 
and the duty of interpreting it in the hght of the teacliing and work 
of Christ and the Apostles. In short, the first Christian Bible was 
the Old Testament, read in the Greek version circulating among 
the Jews of ' the Dispersion '. This meant diat Cliristians had 
the scrolls of die Old Testament as it were, * ready for their use ', 
though not in the original language. 


The case of the New Testament is very different. What is 
beyond dispute is that the collection of writings comprised in our 
New Testament was gradually formed, as a ' canonical ' collec- 
tion, to be read in Churches, invested with an authority like that 
which was attributed to the Old Testament, and appealed to, over 
doctrinal difficulties and controversies special to Christianity. 
The procedure of Irenaeus, whose work as Bishop of Lyons 
falls within the last quarter of the second century, is instructive. 
He does not entertain the idea of a New Testament canon 
authorised and finally fixed; but he quotes from every book of 
the canonical New Testament except the Epistle to Philemon. 
His use of the New Testament is the first clear example of the 
appeal to these writings as the standard of the doctrine of the 
Church which was characteristic of the whole patristic period. 

The foregoing observations find an impressive illustration in 
the group of writers bearing the traditional title of The ApostoHc 
Fathers ', and particularly in The Epistle of Clement of Rome to the 
Corinthians.^ Clement, as Lightfoot points out in what is now 
the classical edition of the Apostohc Fathers, is speaking not merely 
in his own name, but in that of the Roman Church, of which he 
was Bishop. Internal evidence makes it very probable that the 
Epistle was written at the end of the persecution in Rome under 
Domitian, approximately in the year a.d. 95. Party strife had 
broken out in the Corinthian congregation : a faction had formed 
itself in opposition to the Presbyters, who, as others believed, had 
been appointed by men who were successors of the Apostles, and 
the Presbyters had been driven from office. Clement wrote to 
rebuke these proceedings and to restore harmony. His mind was 
pervaded by a sense of the importance of the Old Testament : 
there are in the Epistle more than a hundred quotations from it, 
in addition to allusions which are not quotations. 

In the case of the New Testament, Clement appealed to the 
writings which were obviously helpful for his own purpose — 
Paul's ppistles to the Corinthians. In the case of the Gospels, he 
does not mention any of the Evangehsts by name : his quotations 
are introduced as ' sayings of the Lord Jesus Christ '. The quota- 
tions, when compared with the Gospels as we now have them, 


are not verbally exact ; they consist of sayings from different parts 
of the records, fused (not confused) together. There are two 
references to passages in the Synoptic Gospels which w^e give in 
Lightfooc's translation, (i) In his thirteenth chapter Clement 
quotes as ' sayings of the Lord Jesus Christ ' the following words : 
' Have mercy, that you may receive mercy : forgive, that you may 
be forgiven : as you do, so shall it be done to you : as you give, 
so shall it be given to you : as you show kindness, so shall kindness 
be shown to you.' It is evident that the record which Clement is 
quoting, and which he beheves to have sufficient authority for 
the words of Christ, gives the essential meaning of the sayings 
standing in our Gospels in the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of 
Matthew and the sixth of Luke, (ii) The same consideration 
appHes to the quotations in Clement's forty-sixth chapter, com- 
bining words contained in the eighteenth and twenty-eighth 
chapters of Matthew, the ninth and fourteenth of Mark, and the 
seventeenth and twenty-second of Luke : ' Woe to that man : it 
were good for him that he had not been bom, rather than that 
he should offend one of my chosen ones : it were better for him 
that a mill-stone should be hung about him and he be cast into 
the sea, rather than that he should pervert one of my chosen 

It need not be said that we are not entering into the large 
question of the history of the Canon of the New Testament. 
The point which we desire to emphasise is psychological. Cle- 
ment had before him records of the sayings of Jesus Christ which 
had come down to him from the previous generation as authentic, 
and which he accepted as authentic. The fact that a man of the 
character and ability revealed in this Epistle should have accepted 
these records as authentic, and as having an authority coming down 
from the Apostolic Age, is evidence of their acceptance during die 
Apostolic Age as going back to the first circle of disciples. The 
principle is this. In assessing the external evidence for the dates of 
the Gospels the reasonable course is to argue /ro/?i the period when 
the evidence for their general use is clear to die earlier period when 
the evidence is more scanty : and not to use the fict that in the 
earlier period the evidence is scanty in order to throw doubt on 


the trustworthiness of the later clear evidence. We repeat that 
this consideration relates to the external use of the Gospels — the 
references to them in early Christian writers. It is not invahdated 
by the analysis of the records (in their present form) into ' sources ' 
on internal grounds. 

Clement is convinced that his belief in the authority of the 
scriptures was supported by Tradition : ' Let us conform to the 
ancient rule [kanon) which has come down to us ' (ch. vii). And 
in an important passage (ch. xlii) he states how he beheved the 
Tradition to have been preserved : * The Apostles received the 
Gospel from the Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus was sent from 
God. . . . Having therefore received a charge from him, and being 
convinced by his resurrection, and trusting in the Word of God 
through the assurance of the Holy Spirit, they went forth to pro- 
claim the good news of the coming of the Reign of God. Preach- 
ing through town and country, they appointed their first converts 
to be Bishops and Deacons among the faithful.' Clement points 
out that this was no new thing : ' It is written, I will appoint their 
Bishops in righteousness and their Deacons in faith.' Here he is 
evidently quoting from memory the Greek version of Isaiah ix. 
17, using the words {diakonos, episcopos) which afterwards became 
official titles. ' Therefore ', he proceeds, ' those who were 
appointed by the Apostles, or afterwards by men of just repute, 
with the consent of the whole assembly, ought not to be unjustly 
disowned ' (ch. xhv). The importance of Tradition as 3. guide is 
emphasised by other writers of this group, particularly by Poly- 
carp, Hernias, and ' Barnabas ' (ch. xix), where the writer urges 
the faithful to guard what they have received, ' not adding to it, 
nor taking away from it '. 

Our next outstanding landmark in the subject now before us 
(the doctrine of Tradition and Interpretation) is seen in the work 
of Justin Martyr, the most important of the group of writers 
known as ' The Apologists '. This title is apphed to a succession 
of Christian writers in the second century who found it necessary 
to write on the defensive, partly against the Jews, but chiefly to 
make the truth about Christianity known to the contemporary 
Graeco-Roman world. It is evident from statements in the New 


Testament, and from Christian writers in the second century in 
particular, that fanatical Jews (claiming to be the exclusive heirs 
of the ancient promises and prerogatives) found opportunities of 
inciting the populace against the Christians. Not all Jews were 
fanatics of this type, and to these some of the ' apologetic ' writings 
were addressed. But far more serious was the need of defending 
the Christian rehgion before the contemporary world, to meet 
slanderous misrepresentations of Christian doctrine and worship, 
and to set forth the Christian faith in a way which would appeal 
to educated men who were acquainted with current thought. 
This purpose lent a special character to the writings of the Apolo- 
gists. They were convinced that in the Christian rehgion the 
only sound and saving philosophy was to be found. They never 
questioned the plenary inspiration of the Old Testament ; but the 
essential facts about it were, for the Apologists, first, the occur- 
rence of miracles, and then, the fulfilment of prophecies, above 
all, in the life, w^ork, and death of Christ. 

Justin Martyr was bom of Greek parents in Flavia Neapohs, the 
ancient Shechem in Samaria. In early manhood he had studied 
under a Stoic teacher, but the theology of Stoicism, as then taught, 
left him deeply dissatisfied. He found some rehef from his doubts 
in Platonism ; but, meeting an aged man, a Christian, he learnt of 
the existence of writings ' more ancient than those of the Greeks ', 
in which he found, through miracles wrought and prophecies ful- 
filled, grounds for faith in one God, Father and Creator, and in 
the Christ whom He had sent. After Justin removed to Rome, 
he was able to gather together a sufficient number of behevers to 
carry on a School for the study of Christian theology. But he 
was put to death, with several of his friends, about a.d. 163. We 
have two undoubtedly authentic works of his : the Apology (the 
so-called Second Apology is an appendix to it), and the Dialogue with 
Trypho. The Dialogue, the most elaborate of die anti-Judaic 
Apologies, is a lengthy account of a discussion between Justin 
and an educated Jew named ' Trypho '. As written, it would 
have occupied several days ; but it is almost certainly based on a 
controversial discussion, on the same lines, wliich actually took 
place. The Apology is addressed to the Emperor Antoninus, who 


died in i6i. During the previous generation, savage persecutions 
broke out in different parts of the empire, which the emperors did 
nothing to prevent. 

Justin v^as outraged that men and women, whose Hves were 
without reproach, should be singled out for bitter and utterly 
undeserved persecution. His words at the beginning of the 
Apology are not concihatory : ' We have not come to flatter you 
by what we are now w^riting, nor to appeal to you as by an ora- 
tion : but to demand that we be judged only after strict and 
impartial inquiry, so that you may not be induced to decide 
through mere prejudice, or through desire to please the super- 
stitious populace, or through false reports sent to you against us. 
It is our belief that we can suffer harm from no one if we have done 
no evU. You may indeed put us to death but harm us you cannot.' 

At this period, the persecutions which were hable to break out 
at any time were not organised in obedience to an imperial edict 
extending to the whole empire. Some of the most savage atroci- 
ties were committed during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, but 
there is no evidence that he personally organised them. It has 
been said that he ' let the Law take its course ' against the Chris- 
tians. As a sufficient comment on this statement, we describe the 
most famous and drastic of the Christian Apologies, that of 
Tertullian, written some forty years after the death of Justin. 
TertuUian, a native of Carthage, devoted his early years to the 
study and practice of Roman Law, of which he acquired a con- 
siderable mastery. His defence may be summarised under the 
following heads. 

(i) It is flagrantly unjust to punish Christians simply because 
they profess the Christian rehgion, and without any inquiry as to 
whether their beliefs are worthy of punishment and deserve to be 
suppressed. In the ' trials ' of Christians, all the estabhshed forms 
of Law, and the customs which are usually observed in the 
administration of justice, are set aside. They are not heard in 
their own defence. The only question is. Are you a Christian? 
and sentence is pronounced as soon as this is confessed, or torture 
is inflicted as if to compel the behever to renounce his faith. 

(ii) The charge that Christians meet together by night to 


abandon themselves to the most abominable excesses is utterly- 
destitute of proof. Is it hkely, Tertullian asks, that men who 
believe in the Judgment of God on their hves and conduct would 
be guilty of such deeds? And when the authorities cannot deny 
that there are men and women whose lives show that their faith 
had made them better subjects and better citizens, it makes no 
difference to their treatment : ' even virtue, in your opinion, ceases 
to be virtue when found in a Christian '. 

(iii) In reply to ridiculous reports current about the nature and 
objects of Christian worship, as for example that Christians 
worshipped ' the head of an ass ', Tertulhan states plainly the 
meaning of the monotheism which Christians believed through 
the teaching of the Hebrew prophets and of the Apostles ; and 
he enlarges on the superior antiquity of the writings of Moses and 
the prophets. This prepared the way for the illusion that Greek 
thinkers ' borrowed from Moses '. 

(iv) It is no disloyalty when Christians are found to refuse to 
make the formal sacrifices to the Emperor, or to take part in the 
pubHc festivals associated with idolatry (ch. xxxv-xxxix) : ' As 
our religion teaches us to think Httle of the honours and wealth of 
the world, we are not led astray by the passions of ambition which 
move others to disturb public order. If you would take the 
trouble to inform yourselves of what actually takes place in our 
assembhes, then, far from finding any reason for viewing them as 
dangerous to the State, you would see that their effects are to in- 
crease our benevolence towards man and our love to God, and to 
make us better men and better subjects.' Closely connected with 
that fundamental issue are charges which Tertullian easily shows 
to be false : that Christians had brought calamities upon the 
empire, and that they hindered and damaged trade. 

(v) Tertulhan makes mention of an old Law forbidding any 
worship of a new deity unless it was sanctioned by the Senate. 
The profession of Christian monotheism openly offended against 
this Law ; and he seems to have thought that this was. at bottom, 
the reason for the decision of the Roman officials diat Christianit\' 
was a relii^io non licita, in other words, a religion not to be tolerated. 
A more serious because a more publicly evident reason was the 

Tradition and interpretation 35 

abandonment of the Roman gods. Tertullian, of course, was 
aware of this (ch. x, xi, and elsewhere) ; and he insists that Chris- 
tians are right in renouncing worship of the ' gods ', which were 
in reahty no ' gods ' at all ; and that the worship of them was the 
work of evil spirits. 

Some modem historians agree that Gibbon was right in his 
view that the most fundamental of all the reasons why Chris- 
tianity was the sohtary exception to the system of general tolera- 
tion guiding the pohcy of the Roman Government towards other 
rehgions, was that all contemporary rehgions known to the 
Roman officials were national, while Christianity, from its very 
nature, was a movement overpassing national boundaries. For 
example : individual Egyptians could and did come to Rome 
and endeavour to spread their rehgious behefs, but the Egyptian 
priests themselves made no attempt to induce the inhabitants of 
other countries to ' nationaHse ' the worship of Egyptian deities. 
Christianity, on the other hand, was, so to speak, a ' root-and- 
branch ' propagandist movement (we use the word ' propagand- 
ist ' without any impHcation of criticism or discredit). The 
convert not only learnt to abandon the local gods, but was given 
exclusive possession of the vital truth on which salvation depended. 
It appears that Tertulhan overlooked the significance of this fact. 
When he denounced the inconsistency of tolerating Egyptian 
superstitions while persecuting a rehgion which taught the wor- 
ship of one all-wise and all-powerful God, he failed to see that 
such an appeal on behalf of a rehgion which was not national, or 
even inter-national, but which was supra-national, could not be 
understood by the Roman Proconsuls. Marcus AureHus himself 
declared that he was above all ' a Roman '. And the so-called 
' emperor-worship ' was at bottom worship of the Roman State. 

All that we have hitherto said refers to the second century, and 
in particular to the reign of Marcus Aurehus (a.d. 161-180) when 
Christians were in a position of great danger. All the efforts of 
the Apologists to show that Christians were loyal subjects were in 
vain. Persecution might break out anywhere. Justin and a 
number of leading members of the Christian community in 
Rome were put to death in 163. 


When we examine the methods adopted by Justin in his defence 
of Christianity, we find that his use of the Greek Old Testament 
and his use of the writings which afterwards formed an essential 
part of the New Testament Canon raise different questions. 
About the Greek Old Testament there was no question : its 
authority was accepted by Jews and Christians everywhere. His 
method of interpreting the Old Testament may be described as 
' typological ' : the whole historical, doctrinal, and biological 
content of the Greek Old Testament was searched for ' types ' of 
Christ and his life and death. This sometimes leads Justin into 
absurd conclusions; but there are places where his references 
cannot be dismissed as fanciful, whatever we may think of them 
as questions of historical interpretation, Reading in the Book of 
Numbers (xxi. 9) in the Greek version, that the serpent was set 
up by Moses as a ' sign ', he saw in the words a plain indication 
that it was a ' sign ' of the Cross. He may have had before him 
the words of the Fourth Gospel (iii. 14-15) : ' The Son of Man 
must be lifted up on liigh, even as Moses hfted up the serpent in 
the desert, that everyone who beheves in him may have eternal 
life.' In like manner, he saw in the ' Branch ' and the ' Star ', 
from the ancestry of Jesse, a prophecy of the coming of Christ. 
And above all, in the words of Isaiah (vii. 14), which he under- 
stood as foretelling a miraculous birth without a human father, he 
saw a direct reference to the birth of Christ as recorded in the 
Gospels of Matthew and Luke. (There is no evidence that 
Justin had any knowledge of Hebrew.) 

In the case of Justin's use of the Gospels, the considerations 
which we have desire to emphasise are psychological He does not 
refer to any of the evangelists by name ; the documents on wliich 
he relies he describes as ' The Memoirs of the Apostles '. His 
quotations from them in most cases differ verbally from the 
corresponding passages in the first three Gospels as we now possess 
them : he combines phrases or statements from two or three of 
the Gospels, or reports a saying or an act of Jesus without using 
the words as they now are found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, 
or Luke. From this, the natural conclusion is that he is quoting 
' from memory '. There is, however, more to be said. What 


was his purpose ? It appears that the term ' Gospels ' was not, at 
that period, everywhere apphed to the writings in which the Gospel, 
as a body of reHgious teaching, was set forth. In any case, it is 
certain that the name ' Gospel ' apphed to a hook would have had 
no meaning for a Roman or a Jew. In one passage, Justin refers 
to the use of the name in this latter sense : ' the Memoirs of the 
Apostles, which are called Gospels ' [Apology, ch. Ixvi) ; but the 
descriptive name which he actually uses would have had a meaning 
for the persons whom he was addressing. Further, with regard 
to his method of quoting the documents that he was using : in 
the Apology he dwells both on the hfe and the teaching of Jesus, 
reviewing the former with the special aim of enforcing the argu- 
ment from the fulfdment of prophecy. Under these conditions, 
he availed himself now of one, now of another of the Synoptic 
Gospels, and he often found it convenient to rely on memory. 
His manner of using them is just what we might expect from a 
man who had made himself so thoroughly famihar with them 
that their contents had become, so to speak, a ' second nature ' in 
his thought and feehng. It is noteworthy that in five passages in 
the Dialogue he quotes words of Jesus exactly in the form in which 
we now read them in the Gospel of Matthew. There is no evi- 
dence of the existence, at that time, of imtings which could have 
supphed Justin with all that he has to say about the hfe and teaching 
of Jesus, except the Synoptic Gospels in their present form ; and it 
is known that they were in circulation in the second century, with 
such variations of reading as are found in the oldest existing 
manuscripts. Surely it is a defiance of all principles of sound 
criticism to assume that Justin preferred to rely on any of the 
apocryphal ' Gospels existing at the time, of which in any case he 
made an extremely hmited use. 

It is possible to compare Justin's quotations from the Old 
Testament with the actual words of the Greek version, and it is 
found that in a large number of cases they are as free as his quota- 
tions from the Synoptic Gospels. He often departs from the 
words actually written, but he does not misrepresent the natural 
meaning of the words actually written. It must be repeated that 
the considerations which we are emphasising are psychological. 


The consideration which we stated in connection with the 
Epistle of Clement appHes here with ten-fold force. The fact that 
Justin used ' the Memoirs of the Apostles ' without the sHghtest 
question of their trustworthiness is evidence of his behef that they 
had come down to him from previous generations with the 
authority of Tradition behind them. That this behef was an 
illusion is, in the case of Justin, a psychological impossibihty. 

Among the many detailed references, in the writings of Justin, 
to the life and work of Christ, we fmd in several passages the 
outline of what was to be called ' the Rule of Faith ' — a summary 
statement of the essentials received without question in the 
Churches with which Justin was acquainted.^ The longest state- 
ment is given in his Apology (ch. xiii), where he is concerned to 
affirm that Christians ' are not atheists ' : ' We worship the 
Creator of this universe, whom we praise as we are able with 
prayer and thanksgiving . . . for our creation, for all our means of 
health, for the qualities of things, for the changes of the seasons, 
and that we may have a good resurrection through our faith; 
and with sound reason we honour him who has taught us these 
things and was born for that purpose, Jesus Christ, who was 
crucified under Pontius Pilate, the Governor of Judaea in the time 
of Tiberius Caesar ; for we have learnt that he is the Son of the 
true God. Him we hold in the second rank, and the prophetic 
Spirit third in order.' Shorter statements in a number of other 
passages refer explicitly to the Resurrection and the Ascension. 
Thus : ' It was foretold in the books of the Prophets that Jesus our 
Christ would come to earth, would be bom through the Virgin 
and be made man, would be crucified and die, and be raised again, 
and ascend into heaven ' (ch. xxxi) . Immediately after the state- 
ment quoted above (ch. xiii) Justin proceeds to dwell on the 
precepts of the Sermon on the Mount, in the words recorded in 
Matt. V and vi : emphasising in particular bodily purity, patience, 
and love, and adding a strong reference to civil obedience : ' We 
worship God alone, but we serve you willingly in other things, 
acknowledging you to be our rulers, and praying tliat you may be 
found to unite sound wisdom with your imperial power.' 

Our next outstanding landmark on the subject now before 


US is found in the work of Irenaeus and Tertullian. In their 
writings, we see Tradition becoming the basis of an organised 
' Christian front ', doctrinal and ecclesiastical. The four Gospels 
are now universally received, and read in Churches, as trustworthy 
and indeed inspired authorities for the hfe and teaching of Christ. 
The assumption, put forward by som.e writers in the last century, 
that they were chosen, more or less arbitrarily, out of a number of 
competing ' Gospels ', seems to have been based mainly on a 
complete misunderstanding of the passage in which Irenaeus 
dwells on the analogies, in the mundane and supra-mundane 
regions, for the number ' four '. Their acceptance in the time of 
Irenasus strengthens the psychological argument from the period 
in which the evidence is defmite to the period in which it is less 
definite : in this case, from the use of the Gospels by Irenaeus to 
their use by Justin. 

Irenaeus had Hved in Asia Minor; he knew many of the 
Churches there, and had heard the aged Polycarp in Smyrna. 
Indications of his dates are inconclusive within a few years of 
each other. It seems reasonable to suppose that he became 
Bishop of Lugdunum (Lyons) about a.d. 175. Here his enormous 
diocese would be southern Gaul. His principal work, the title 
of which may be rendered " Refutation and Overthrow of Know- 
ledge falsely so called ", was probably completed early in the last 
quarter of the second century. It is usually referred to as Adversus 
Haereses — ' Against Heretical Sects '. Most of it has come dov^oi 
to us only in a Latin translation, which the translator appears to 
have made as literal as he could. 

Both Irenaeus and TertuUian utterly repudiate the assumption 
that Christ reserved a secret doctrine, communicated by him to 
his disciples, which continued to be reserved until it was dis- 
covered by the ' Gnostics '. It was against the ' Gnostic ' 
systems, and in particular against this appeal to a supposed secret 
doctrine, that Irenaeus composed his principal work. An impor- 
tant part of his purpose was to explain and defend what he be- 
lieved to be the genuine apostoHc Tradition against the extra- 
vagances of Gnosticism '. 

According to Irenaeus, the Christian Gospel has been transmitted 


in a two-fold manner : (i) through the Scriptures, and (ii) by 
means of teaching and preaching based on a Tradition going 
back to the Apostles themselves. Tradition is therefore a second 
source of faith and doctrine, from which behevers can derive 
Christian truth which is contained in the Bible only by imphcation 
or not at all. But there has been no kind of secrecy about the 
apostohc Tradition : ' Any man who desires to discover the 
truth may fmd in every Church the apostohc Tradition manifest 
and clear. If the Apostles had a secret doctrine to be imparted 
to the so-called " perfect ", surely they would have openly 
entrusted this teaching to the men in whose charge they left the 
Churches? ' He proceeds to name a succession of Bishops, 
taking the case of Rome because, as he observes, it would take a 
long time to name the succession in all the other Churches — 
because Rome had a position of central importance in the empire 
— and because the Christian Church in Rome was for that reason 
an important source of influence.* 

In defence of his view of the value of Tradition Irenaeus states 
an extreme hypothetical case : ' If the Apostles had not left any 
Scriptures in writing, would it not be our duty to follow the 
order of the Tradition which they actually did dehver to the men 
in whose charge they left the Churches ? ' He points to the case 
of those who believe without appeal to writings, for the plain 
reason that they cannot read Greek : ' Many communities of 
barbarians who believe in Christ, with the means of their salvation 
written not with paper and ink but by the Spirit in their hearts, are 
faithful to the ancient Tradition. Many of those who hold the 
faith without any written words to support them may be bar- 
barians as regards our language, but as regards their behefs and 
way of hfe they are well pleasing to God, hving as they do in 
righteousness and purity ' (III. iv. i). 

The most definite statement of the Rule of Faith found in the 
writings of Irenaeus is as follows : ' The Church, dispersed as she 
is throughout the known world, received from the Apostles and 
from their disciples one faith : that is, faith in one God the Father 
Almighty, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and 
all that is in them : and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who 


for our salvation became flesh : and in one Holy Spirit, who 
through the prophets foretold . . . the advent, the birth from a 
virgin, the sufferings, the resurrection from the dead, and the 
bodily reception into the heavens, of Jesus Christ our beloved 
Lord, and his coming again in the glory of the Father, in order 
that all things in the heavens and the earth may be gathered up 
in him [the reference is to Ephesians i. lo], and to raise all men 
from the dead for just judgment : the irrehgious, the blasphemers, 
and the unrighteous among men, with the rebel angels, to ever- 
lasting fire, and the righteous, who have kept his commandments 
and persevered in his love, to eternal hfe and eternal glory ' 
{Adversus Haereses, I. ch. lo). 

In all essential principles TertuUian is at one with Irenaeus on the 
question here before us; but special attention is needed to his 
short treatise On the Prescription of Heretics. His method is clearly 
stated by himself: ' We contest the ground on which our oppo- 
nents (the " Christian " Gnostics) make their appeal. They make 
the Scriptures the ground of their appeal, and so they deceive 
many. We therefore take up our strongest position when we 
maintain that they have no right to the use of the Scriptures at all. 
If they make the Scriptures the ground of their appeal, then the 
question as to who are entitled to use the Scriptures must be gone 
into first.' The term praescriptio was a Roman legal term stating 
a question which must be decided first before any legal arguments 
over a given case could be dealt with. TertuUian's procedure is 
in eflect to transfer the case into that of Tradition and its vahdity. 
His position is, that the authority of the Gospels (the written 
Gospels) rests on a trustworthy and pubhc Tradition which the 
' Gnostics ' despise and reject, claiming an entirely secret Tradition 
coming from Christ and known only to themselves. 

' Let us search, therefore, in our own, and from our own, and 
concerning our own, provided only that nothing is admitted 
which conflicts with the Rule of Faith.' TertuUian then pro- 
ceeds to state the contents of the Rule of Faith : ' It affirms our 
behef that there is but one God, self-same with the Creator of the 
world, who produced, in the beginning, all things out of nothing 
through His Word (the Logos) : that the Word is called His 


Son, who under the name of God was seen in divers forms by 
the patriarchs, was heard in the prophets, and at length through 
the Spirit and Power of God became flesh and was born of the 
Virgin Mary and hved as Jesus Christ : that he proclaimed a 
new Law and a new promise of the Kingdom of Heaven, v/rought 
miracles, was crucified, and on the third day rose again from 
the dead and ascended into the heavens : . . . that he sent the 
power of the Holy Spirit to guide behevers : that he will come in 
glory to take the " saints " into the fulfilment of the heavenly 
promises in eternal Hfe, and condemn the wicked to everlasting 
fire ' (Tertullian's materiahstic views of the soul naturally led him 
to equally materiahstic views of the resurrection-body). He does 
not condemn inquiry within hmits. Provided that the Form o{ 
the Rule is observed, ' Christians may seek and discuss as much as 
they please ', and ' express their desire for inquiry, if any question 
seems undetermined through ambiguity or obscure through lack 
of clear statement '.^ 

The references to the Rule of Faith, m Irenasus and Tertulhan, 
show that certain of its statements, in addition to their affirmative 
force, were intended to have a negative implication. This may 
be admitted without any concession to the theory that the Creed 
was developed mainly as a defensive ' barrier ' against ' Gnosti- 
cism '. Each of the principal clauses excludes some speculation 
held by the ' Gnostics ', who claimed to be ' Christian '. The 
unity of God, as Father and Creator of everything that exists, 
excludes the theory that the creator of this world was a separate 
being inferior to the supreme God ; that Jesus Christ is His ' only 
Son ' excludes the theory that when Christ appeared on earth he 
was one of a succession of supra-mundane beings; that the body 
of Jesus which suffered was a real human body excludes the theory 
that it was only the appearance of a human body. The body of 
Jesus which rose again was not a mere apparition; and, in the 
case of mankind, the body is not an evil prison from which 
the soul escapes, but is itself destined to be ' raised from the 
dead '. 

Among the movements usually described as ' Gnostic ', there 
was one with characteristics differentiating it from all other forms 


of Gnosticism ' of which anything is known. It was founded by 
Marcion of Pontus. Marcion first becomes historically con- 
spicuous as a member of the Church in Rome about a.d. 145, but 
he broke off his connection with the Church, or more probably 
was expelled from it ; and he then started an active propaganda of 
his own. His radical conviction was based on the contrast 
between the Deity revealed in the Old Testament and the Deity 
revealed in the New Testament. All the ' Gnostic ' schools 
claiming to be Christian had emphasised this contrast ; but 
Marcion gave it an entirely new interpretation. He had convinced 
himself that the combination of Law and Gospel in the accepted 
Christian tradition rested on a fatal misunderstanding, due to the 
fact that the original disciples, unable to cast off their Jewish pre- 
suppositions, had perverted the Gospel of Christ and given a dis- 
torted picture of his Person. Paul, opposing this tendency, and 
especially in opposition to Peter, was the first to set forth the 
Gospel of Christ in its complete independence and its revolu- 
tionary character; but his letters had been interpolated in the 
interest of Jewish Christianity. Hence Marcion felt called upon to 
restore the genuine Gospel of Paul, which was the Gospel of 
Christ. Marcion admitted no allegorical interpretation, and 
claimed no revelation imparted to himself. His purpose was to 
jbreak up what he beheved to be the unnatural combination of Law 
and Gospel, and to purify the New Testament of everything 
connecting it with Judaism. The result was the Marcionite 
' Canon ', consisting of the Gospel of Luke and ten Epistles of 
Paul : Romans, Corinthians (both), Galatians, Ephesians, Colos- 
sians, Phihppians, Thessalonians (both), and Philemon, in every 
case with certain ' expurgations '. All the other books of the 
New Testament, so far as he knew them, he rejected. His 
treatment of the New Testament has been described as purely 
' subjective ' : it was, rather, the apphcation of a fixed and defmite 
theory. It is historically important because of its effects to be 
seen in the history of the Canon of New Testament writings 
adopted by the Church. 

In addition to his ' Canon ' Marcion composed a kind of text- 
book entitled The Antitheses, setting forth in detail the contrast 


between the God of the Law and the God of the Gospel. Frag- 
ments of it have survived. At bottom, the ' Antitheses ' may be 
reduced to these : on the one side, the kingdom of nature, the 
material world in which bodUy life is imprisoned — on the other 
side, the heavenly Kingdom, apprehended by all who are moved 
by the spirit of Christ; on the one side, a legal righteousness, 
* thou shalt (do this), thou shalt not (do that) ', resting on sanc- 
tions of reward and punishment- — on the other side, free redeem- 
ing Grace ; on the one side, the victorious leadership of a privi- 
leged and ' chosen ' people — on the other side, salvation freely 
offered to all, heathen and sinners ahke. 

The real Saviour-Christ appeared suddenly in the fifteenth year 
of the reign of Tiberius. His appearance was an entirely new 
event, with no roots in the past history of the Jewish people or of 
the human race. Everything depended on faith in Christ, trusting 
oneself absolutely to the mercy of God revealed in Christ, a God 
who had given no sign of his love or even of his existence save in 
the Person and Work of Christ. ' Apart from Christ, there is no 
salvation.' Faith in God is faith in a God w^ho is a ' Stranger ' to 
the world, who yet intervened, as it were ' catastrophically ', in 
Christ, to proclaim a radically new religion of true salvation. So 
far as the conditions of human existence allowed, all the works of 
the creator God (the God of the Old Testament) were despised 
and rejected. The body was to be subjected to ascetic discipline. 
Marriage was forbidden to all who yielded themselves absolutely 
to faith in Christ. And yet Marcion held firmly to the conviction 
that the God revealed in Christ is not a Judge. A sufficient 
deterrent from sin was the horror of sin inspired by the vision of 
God's Love in Christ ; ' a doctrine ' it has been said ' for the giants 
of faith, not for ordinary Christians '.^ 

The strongest attack on Marcion's version of Christianity 
which has come down to us is that of Tcrtullian. Advcrsus Mar- 
cionem. Tertulhan's fervid ' African ' temperament often breaks 
out into violence of language ; it is characteristic that he begins by 
abuse of Marcion and even of the region from which Marcion had 
come. But he soon proceeds to serious argument. Wc quote 
the most essential points from the first Book (ch. ix. ff ) : ' How 


absurd it is to believe that during the whole interval between 
creation and the coming of Christ the supreme God should have 
remained entirely unknown, while the lower deity, the " Demi- 
urge ", received the undivided homage of mankind. . , . It would 
have been more reasonable to affirm the superiority of the being 
who had manifested his power in the work of creation than to 
affirm the superiority of One who had never even afforded any 
evidence of His existence. ... In order to avoid the force of this 
argument, you (the Marcionites) profess to despise the world in 
which you Hve ; and notwithstanding the innumerable ways of 
order and design to be seen in it, you say it is not worthy to be the 
work of the supreme God. . . . Yet Christ, who, you say, came into 
this world to deHver men from the power of the Demiurge, has 
given to men the use of the elements and products of this evil 
world for human purposes, and even in the Sacraments, which 
you celebrate as we do. . . . Again : though two hundred years 
have passed since the birth of Christ, this world, the work of the 
Demiurge, still exists, and has not been done away to be replaced 
by a new creation from the supreme God whom Christ came to 
reveal. . . . And how was the supreme God at length actually 
revealed ? There are two ways of attaining to knowledge of 
God — from the apprehension and understanding of His works, or 
by direct revelation. Since the actual world was the work of the 
Demiurge, knowledge of the true God must have been by direct 
revelation, through the Saviour-Christ who came down from 
heaven two hundred years ago. . . . And yet full disclosure of the 
truth was reserved until Marcion began to urge Christians to 
beheve that the God revealed by Christ was a superior Being to 
the creator.' 

TertuUian argues at length that Marcion entirely failed in his 
main purpose — to reconcile the supremacy of a God of perfect 
goodness and love with the fact that a being inferior in goodness 
and love held the world in subjection. That TertuUian sheds 
Hght on this problem himself could hardly be maintained even by 
the most sympathetic expositor. But TertuUian takes the ques- 
tion down to the fundamental issue : the denial of any real relation 
between the supreme God and the created world except through 


a wholly anti-natural intervention. It is not true that pure for- 
giving Love is the only attribute of God which is revealed to us : 
He is a God of Judgment as well as a God of Love ; and it is not 
true that the Bible presents a clearly-marked antithesis between a 
' just ' God, that is a God requiring obedience and apportioning 
rewards and punishments and a God of Love and Mercy. The 
Old Testament witnesses to the Mercy of God as well as to His 
Judgments, and the New Testament to His Judgments as well as 
to His Mercy. The truth is that Marcion was the slave of duaHstic 
presuppositions. He was incapable of perceiving that the more 
deeply we penetrate into human experience, the less possible it 
becomes to divide it into rigid classifications resting in every case 
on an ' Either-Or ' of mutually exclusive terms. His interest 
was wholly in practical rehgion. He aimed at founding a Church, 
and to some extent he succeeded; statements by Irenaeus and 
TertuUian show that Marcionite Churches existed in many parts 
of the empire ; and the roU of martyrdom includes many members 
of these Churches. 

Nevertheless, the fundamental dualism of the Marcionite 
theology, and the consequent assertion that the body of Jesus 
Christ was not a real human body but only the appearance of 
one, was to the Fathers an intolerable paradox. Take Origen as 
an example : ' We worship the God of the universe — the whole, 
of all that our senses reveal to us, and all that is beyond the power 
of our senses to discern ' [Contra Cebum, bk. VIII. ch. xvi). 
Origen beUeved that though in the experience of created beings 
Justice and Love cannot be the same, in the infmite being of God 
they are One. 

Among the Christian thinkers of Alexandria we fmd an unques- 
tioned acceptance of the Rule of Faith, as it had come dowTi from 
the Apostohc Age through Clement of Rome, Justin, Irenasus, 
and TertuUian ; but their theory of the principle of that Tradition 
differed materially from all that we have hitherto considered. In 
what follows we refer in particular to Clement of Alexandria and 

Very httle is known with any certainty about the Hfe of Clement 
of Alexandria. References in his writings show that he was an 


Athenian by education if not by birth. For several years he 
travelled widely, and heard various teachers until he found in 
Alexandria ' the true master ' for whom he had been seeking. 
This was Pantaenus, then head of the famous ' Catechetical 
School ' — the seat of the study of the Christian rehgion, its 
theology and its history. Only fragments of the work of 
Pantaenus have survived. Clement succeeded him, and taught 
there for some twelve years, until a.d. 203, Origen being among 
his students. Clement was by temperament and inclination a 
student, averse to personal controversy and the harassing affairs 
of pohtical and ecclesiastical Hfe in Alexandria. His writings are 
a faithful mirror of his studies and thoughts. Three of them are 
decisive for his place in the history of early Christian doctrine. 
(i) A critical account of pagan mythologies and ' mysteries ', 
leading up to an ' Appeal to the Greeks ' to learn what the true 
rehgion is. This work is sometimes referred to by its Greek title, 
Protreptikos. (ii) An exposition of the work of the divine Word, 
guiding men to Christianity as a way of life as well as of faith : the 
' Instructor ' {Paidagogos) . (iii) A work of his last years, the 
unsystematic but important ' Miscellanies ' [Stromatd)J 

Clement's view of Tradition is really two views, which he does 
not succeed in finally reconciling. In the first place, we have in 
the New Testament the foundations of saving knowledge. But 
he passes beyond even this. Quoting Colossians (i. 26-27, 
MofFatt's rendering), with its emphatic reference to the ' open 
secret ', that ' open secret which, though concealed from ages and 
generations of old, has been disclosed to the saints of God ', he 
xmderstands the words to mean that there were certain truths 
* estabhshed before Creation ', not revealed xmtil the time of the 
Apostles, dehvered by the Apostles as they received them from 
Christ, and handed down through a continuous hne of Tradition 
from the earhest days of the Church. The vahdity of this Tradi- 
tion carries with it a distinction between the ordinary Christian 
behever and the ' Christian Gnostic ' — a title which Clement care- 
fully distinguished from that of the heretical ' Gnosticism ' 
attacked by the Fathers. He is absolutely opposed to the ' Gnostic ' 
theory that there is a difference o£ nature between the two types of 


Christian believers. All alike are saved by faith and by their 
power of free voluntary choice, aided by divine Grace; but there 
are, so to speak, ' grades ' or ' levels ' in Christian behef ' Faith ' 
must come first — the indispensable truths of the Gospel, set forth 
in the ' Rule of Faith ' ; but the complete understanding of the 
content of the Faith (so far as this is possible for us) depends on 
the power of sustained rational reflection and insight : ' This is 
entrusted as a deposit to those who show themselves worthy of 
such instruction, and from this. Love shines forth with ever- 
increasing light : thus it was said, To him who has, shall be given 
— knowledge being added to faith, and love to knowledge, and to 
love the heavenly inheritance '. There are, then, two extremes : 
' the children of faith, blessed indeed, but not yet having attained 
to maturity in their love of God ' ; and the ' Christian Gnostic ', 
who has faith, but with the fullest understanding of his faith. As 
a consequence of this distinction, Clement does not hesitate to 
advocate a reservation of doctrine in addressing those who are ' not 
ready ' or not prepared to understand it fully. Humanly speak- 
ing, this may sometimes be legitimate, or educationally necessary ; 
but evidently it may be carried so far as to be fatal. Clement 
observes that the ' Christian Gnostic ' will express whatever is in 
his mind, ' but only to those who arc worthy to hear ' ; he both 
thinks and speaks the truth, ' unless sometimes medicinally, as 
when a physician may still tell an untruth for the safety of the 
patient '.^ 

For the Christian theologians of Alexandria, the fundamental 
fact of divine revelation was the imity and harmony of all parts of 
the Bible, and they were convinced that this could be shown only 
by the method of allegorical interpretation. The so-called ' secret 
doctrine ' was based wholly on the Bible, and the questions which 
it raised related entirely to the legitimacy of the allegorical method. 
Allegorism had long been known among the Greeks, particularly 
in reference to the interpretation of Homer. It had also long been 
known among the Jews of Alexandria ; but it was made into a 
system by Philo. Philo died at an advanced age soon after a.d. 
40. He was before all else a devout orthodox Jew. For him, the 
books of the Old Testament were all divinely inspired ; but the 


books bearing the name of Moses were inspired in the highest 
degree, setting forth, as they did, the divine Torah. It is evident 
from his w^ritings that Philo had read v^idely in Greek hterature 
and philosophy. Whether he had an adequate understanding of 
it all is another question; but his studies had led him to a con- 
ception of the divine Nature which could not be reconciled with 
a number of statements in the Old Testament if these were under- 
stood in their Hteral sense. Philo therefore summoned to his aid, 
as a solvent of all difficulties, the method of allegorical interpreta- 
tion. Everything anthropomorphic had to be translated into 
some philosophical or spiritual truth; whatever, superficially 
regarded, appeared to be trivial or even absurd, must for that very 
reason be the vehicle of some profoimd thought. He employed 
this method in all seriousness ; he beheved that he was faithfuUy 
foUowing the meaning of the writers whose work he was 
expounding; and wherever there was nothing objectionable in 
the narratives or statements as given, he allowed the hteral mean- 
ing to stand, though he introduced the famihar symboHsm along 
with it. He protested against the assumption that the prescriptions 
of the ceremonial Law might be neglected because they were 
capable of a spiritual interpretation. There are numerous cases of 
resemblance and sometimes identity of expression between the 
exegetical writings of Philo and those of Clement; but it is 
psychologically impossible that Clement simply borrowed from 
Philo or simply imitated Philo. Philo was a philosophically 
minded and sincerely orthodox Jew; Clement was a philo- 
sophically minded and sincerely Christian theologian. 

Of all Christian thinkers before the fourth century, Origen is the 
one with the greatest intellectual power, and the one who, with 
the possible exception of Irenaeus, exercised the widest influence. 
Bom in Alexandria of Christian parents, his abihties were 
developed in the Catechetical School under Clement. His 
student days ended suddenly with the persecution under Severus ; 
but on the re-opening of the Catechetical School the Bishop 
appointed him to be head of the School in succession to Clement, 
who had retired. Here he laboured, as author and teacher, until 
serious differences with the Bishop led to his removal to Caesarea 


in Palestine. He suffered imprisonment and torture during the 
persecution under Decius (a.d. 250). Though he was released 
after the death of Decius in the following year, his health and 
constitution were broken as a result of his sufferings, following on 
a laborious and severely ascetic hfe. He died in the seventieth 
year of his age (253). His hterary work was immense. He 
produced Commentaries on almost every book of the Old and 
New Testaments. These formed the greater part of his planned 
work as a Christian teacher ; but part of his purpose was to con- 
struct a comprehensive Christian theology, at once Scriptural and 
philosophical. His work on First Principles is his contribution to 
that purpose.^ 

Origen's theory of Tradition is identical with his theory of 
Interpretation. Christ did give ' secret ' teaching through the 
Apostles, but its content is to be found wholly in the Bible, when 
studied by those who are fitted to receive it — that is, when studied 
under the methods of interpretation prevalent in the Christian 
schools of Alexandria. In effect, this means that the ' average ' 
Christian must leave the interpretation of Scripture to trained 

There is, however, more to be said. We may compare 
Clement and Origen in this reference. For Clement, the under- 
standing of the deeper meanings of the bibhcal writings was the 
result of an inherited Tradition, on which both the authority and 
the content of the allegorical method rested. For Origen, the 
authority or sanction of the method rested on Tradition, but its 
legitimate use depended on a superior insight, which is not the 
exclusive privilege of certain persons. He is prepared to maintain 
that any Christian bcHever might attain to it. Thus, after quoting 
Proverbs v. 3 (' Drink waters out of your own well, running 
waters out of your own fountain '), he urges his hearers to reahse 
that everyone has an inner fountain of his own : ' You also, as you 
study the Scriptures, may begin to derive wisdom from what is 
written ; . . . for there is within each one of you a natural source 
of living waters, perennial springs of pure understanding, if only 
they are not choked by the dust and dirt of the world. . . . Clear 
away the dust and dirt of the world, for it is God who is the 


Source of the living springs within you. . . . Like the woman who 
found her drachma not outside but within her home, after she had 
cleaned it and kindled her lamp.' 

Nevertheless, a certain contrast remains. There are questions 
which are too difficult for the ' average ' Christian behever. 
These are the fundamental questions of philosophical theology. 
He is convinced that ' for the sake of those unable to bear the 
burden of studying questions of such importance ' it has been 
divinely ordained that the explanation of them in the Bible ' shall 
be enveloped in records dealing with the visible creation '. 
Origen may have entertained the idea of a progressive revelation, 
but he made no use of it in reference to the literature of the Bible. 
He was absorbed in elaborating the difference between the Hteral 
and the spiritual sense. He knew, and expressly says, that there 
is much in the Old Testament the power of which may be felt 
without any expert knowledge : ' He who with careful attention 
reads the words of the prophets will even from his reading 
experience a trace and vestige of the inspiration in himself, and 
this personal experience will convince him that these are no mere 
compilations of men. . . . And the hght which was always there in 
the Mosaic Law, though covered with a veil, shone forth with the 
coming of Jesus, when the veil was taken away, and the good 
things came Httle by Httle into view — those good things whose 
shadow was seen in the letter of the writings.' ^^ 

Origen finds that the interpretation of the Bible on the prin- 
ciple of hteraUsm leads to endless difficulties, and provides 
material for duahstic theories hke those of Marcion. He finds 
also that ' the more simple-minded of those belonging to the 
Church while rightly beheving that there is none greater than the 
Creator ', do yet ' beHeve such things about Him as would not 
be beheved about the most unjust and savage of men '. Diffi- 
culties of a more general character he fmds, for example, in the 
narrative of the Garden of Eden : ' What inteUigent person will 
beHeve that a first, second, and third day, with evening and 
morning, took place without sun and stars, and the first, as we call 
it, without even a heaven? Who would be so childish as to 
beHeve that God, after the manner of a human gardener, planted 


a garden, and made therein a tree, visible and tangible, such that 
one could get the power of Hving by bodily eating of its fruit with 
the teeth : or, again, could partake of good and evil by feeding 
on what came from the other tree ? If God is said to walk at 
eventide in the Garden and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I 
think that no one will doubt that these statements are figurative, 
declaring, by means of an apparent history, certain mysteries, not 
declaring what took place in bodily form. And Cain's going 
forth from the presence of God, stirs the reader to look for the 
meaning of the presence of God, and of anyone going forth from 
it. . . . All but the dullest eyes can gather examples in which events 
are recorded as having happened which did not happen in the 
Hteral sense.' Origen finds that even in the Gospels there are 
statements of the same kind — as when it is recorded that the devil 
took Jesus on to a high mountain to show him from thence the 
kingdoms of the world and the glory of them : ' Only a careless 
reader would agree with those who beheve that by the eyes of 
the body the kingdoms of the Persians and Scythians and 
Indians and Parthians were seen and the glory given to their 
rulers.' ^^ 

Allegorism retained a position in the Church, but it was a 
severely restricted position. Difficulties were felt even by Origen 
himself. The Song of Songs is a test case. Origen saw that, 
understood hterally, it is a dramatic love-poem. But the relations 
of the lover to her beloved were supposed to symbohse the rela- 
tions of the Church to Christ and of the Christian behever to the 
divine Word. The position of the book in the Canon has again 
and again revived the ancient way of interpretation. With 
regard to Origen's treatment of the Song of Songs in his Com- 
mentary, Dr. Charles Bigg observed : ' Origen undertook the 
work with many misgivings. He was startled to find the Greek 
word which denotes sexual affection used, as he thought, of the 
love between Christ and his mystical bride; but he persuaded 
himself that here there is no real difference bet^veen die cros of 
poetry and the agape of the New Testament. . . . Origen, \\dthout 
intending it, made a contribution to the language expressive of 
personal adoration of Christ, ending eventually in a rehgious 


attitude in which the Father . . . has been obscured behind the Son, 
as the Son in turn has been behind the Virgin and the Saints.' ^^ 

As we approach the fourth century, and the controversies 
which were critical for Christian thought, we find that the author- 
ity of Tradition, in itself and as a rule of interpretation, was being 
merged in the authority of the organised Church. Thus, Basil, 
Bishop of Caesarea, affirms that ' of the doctrines, and institutions 
[the reference is to the Sacraments], preserved in the Church, 
some are set forth in the sacred writings while others come from 
the Tradition of the Apostles. . . . But no one will repudiate the 
latter [the Tradition] if he has the least understanding of the 
authority of the Church.' And after referring to ceremonies at 
that time admitted by the Church without question, he goes on to 
say that ' herein are ordinances which formerly were not entirely 
divulged, and which the Fathers preserved silently, to protect 
them from mere curiosity '. This is in principle Clement's 
doctrine of a ' secret ' Tradition, applied to the authority and 
efficacy of the Sacraments. Basil is entirely at one with his 
brother Gregory of Nyssa, and his friend Gregory of Nazianzus, in 
•their agreement that certain terms used in the Nicene declaration 
are not to be rejected simply because they do not occur in Scrip- 
ture. Thus, Gregory of Nyssa, writing against the extreme 
Arianism of Eunomius, affirms that ' for the proof of our assertion 
(the unique generation of the Son of God) we have the Tradition 
of the Fathers, which has come down to us, transmitted by the 
saints who were the successors of the Apostles '.^* 

When we turn to Augustine, we see before us the work of a 
man of whom it may be said that within the Cathohc Christian a 
philosophical thinker of the first rank was restlessly active, and 
within both a rehgious genius of the highest order was working. 
His position in the history of Christianity is unique. As thinker, 
theologian, and ecclesiastical statesman, he largely bound the 
thought and conscience of Christendom for fifty generations ; but, 
it must be remembered, his profound anthropological pessimism 
remained with httle effect on Christian thought until the 

He was born at Tagaste, in North Africa, in 354, of a Christian 


mother and a broad-minded pagan father. He was given a 
thorough training in Rhetoric, and became a brilhant and success- 
ful rhetorician, practising in Rome and in Milan. He had known 
the Christian Scriptures from boyhood, but he had httle use for 
them in adolescence and early manhood. For several years he had 
accepted Manicheism as a satisfactory explanation of the world. 
Manicheism was the latest version of the extreme duahsm historic- 
ally connected with the Persian behef that Good and Evil are two 
independent Powers, wholly opposed and in eternal conflict. 
What attracted Augustine in Manicheism was its apparent solution 
of the problem of evil ; but the materialism and crudities of the 
Manichean ' theology ' eventually disgusted him. His rejection of 
Manicheism was followed by a period of scepticism. In Milan 
his Hfe was changed. He was dehvered from scepticism by a 
study of at least part of the principal work of Plotinus ; and he 
became acquainted with Ambrose. This ripened into a warm 
personal friendship. 

At present, we are concerned specially with Augustine's doc- 
trine of Tradition and its relation to the place of the Scriptures in 
the Christian faith. In a statement which has often been quoted,' 
Augustine says : ' I would not believe the Gospel (that is, the 
written records of the Gospel) unless the authority of the Cathohc 
Church moved me to believe ' {ego vero evangelhim non crederem 
nisi me catholicae ecclesiae commoveret auctoritas). This statement 
must be read in the Hght of its context. It is from a comparatively 
brief but effective criticism of the Manichean ' theology ' in reply 
to an epistle by a Manichean who described himself as ' an Apostle 
of Jesus Christ '. ' I do not beheve it ', says Augustine. What 
can the Manichean reply? ' If he says. Trust the verdict of the 
CathoHc Church, I answer that the Church forbids me to trust 
the Manicheans. If he says. Do not rely on the verdict of the 
Church but turn to the written Gospel, then I teU him that he 
cannot appeal to the written Gospel to compel me to accept the 
Manichean doctrine, because the WTitten Gospel has the authority 
of the Church behind it.' Then follows the statement quoted 
above ; and Augustine continues : ' If he says, you are right to trust 
those who defend the Gospel, but you are wrong to trust them 


when they condemn the Manichean doctrine : does he think that 
I am so fooHsh as to beheve what he wishes me to beheve in the 
written Gospel, and to reject what he wishes me to reject in it, 
without any reason being given? ' The whole passage is a 
further indication that the authority of Tradition, in itself and as a 
rule of interpretation, was now merged in the authority of the 
organised Church, The key-note of Augustine's behef about the 
Bible is heard in a typical statement : ' In what is clearly taught 
in the Scriptures we fmd all that is of the essence of our faith and 
the discipline of our hfe ' {inveniunter ilia omnia quae continent Jidem 
tnoresque vivendi). It became necessary therefore for Augustine 
to investigate the whole question of interpretation, which he did 
with characteristic thoroughness. 

He laid down a principle of a general character to decide 
whether a statement in the Bible is to be understood hterally or 
figuratively, and he illustrated it with reference to statements of a 
prescriptive character : * If such a statement forbids a criminal act, 
or commands an act of benevolence, it is not to be understood 
figuratively ; but if it seems to order a cruel or unjust act, or to 
forbid acts of prudence or benevolence, it must be understood 
figuratively.' Much more is this caution needed when such 
things are attributed to holy men, and, above all, when they are 
attributed to God. Nevertheless, every statement in the Bible 
which can be pressed to support the everlasting material torment 
of the damned, is pressed to its strictest literal meaning. He will 
not for a moment admit that any figurative interpretation of such 
statements is allowable. He endeavours to analyse the way in 
which God prepares the bodies of the damned, at the resurrection, 
in order that they may be everlastingly tormented vdthout being 
destroyed. It is evident, from the way in which he discusses this 
doctrine, that there were some in the Church who seriously 
questioned it. But Augustine decisively rejects all hopes that 
future punishment is purgatorial, or that it may not be everlasting, 
or that it may be mitigated by ' the prayers of the saints '. This 
rigid Hterahsm is the more remarkable, because in the case of 
Paul's reference to some who may be saved, ' yet as by fire ', 
Augustine apphes it to those who * have Christ for a foundation *, 


and the ' fire ' is to be understood figuratively. But for all 
others, except the ' elect ', it is a never-ending torment of body 
and soul ahke. It is important to bear in mind that the scriptural 
basis of this doctrine, or what he beheved to be its scriptural basis, 
is not a full explanation of it ; and v^e shall return to it in the sequel. 
At present we are concerned with the general principles of inter- 
pretation, as Augustine sets them forth. 

Fundamentally, the task is to discover the thought and intention 
of the writer himself, and then through this, to discover the pur- 
pose intended by God (that is, in moving him so to write). The 
purpose of the writer is to be discovered by a reasonable and 
accurate examination of the text; the discovery of the purpose of 
God takes us beyond the text, and may require allegorism. In 
the first place, therefore, we must be prepared for an intelhgent 
understanding of what is written. To this end, certain cautionary 
rules are of primary importance. They may be conveniently 
summarised under four ' heads '.^^ 

(i) We must consider the period and the circumstances referred 
to, directly or indirectly, in the passage before us, A special 
appHcation of this caution is in connection with the differences 
between the ancient Hebrew Law and the Christian Gospel. All 
this may be explained by reference to the different situations. 
The Mosaic legislation was valid for one period, for one group of 
circumstances; the Gospel, for another. Augustine takes as 
an illustration the scientific principles of medicine, which, as he 
regarded them, do not change ; but on the basis of these prin- 
ciples, different remedies are prescribed for different diseases. 
There is no contradiction when we find that certain moral laws — 
which were binding under the special conditions of the particular 
time and place and people — did prescribe things which were 
afterwards forbidden, or forbade what was afterwards admitted. 

(ii) In the case of a command, we must consider whedier it was 
given to all mankind, or to a special class of men. For an impor- 
tant example : the saying attributed to Jesus and recorded in 
Matt. xix. 12, is not to be understood as a universal rule of 
Christian Hfe. Augustine appHes in such cases the principle of 
two levels of Christian life — the active and the contemplative ; 


and even in the latter reference, it does not follow that the par- 
ticular rule is absolutely binding. This distinction is intimately 
connected with Augustine's convictions in reference to the claims 
and hmits of the monastic hfe. 

(iii) We must consider the meaning of particular words in the 
context of the passage. Among his examples, he examines the use 
of the words ' jealousy ' and ' anger ' for quahties ascribed to God. 
He beheves that 'jealousy ' in the sense o£ guarding purity may be 
ascribed to God, and ' anger ' if we distinguish ' anger ' from 

(iv) We have to consider the character of the original language. 
For Augustine, the most important apphcations of this caution 
related to the comparison of the Greek text of the Septuagint with 
the Hebrew of the Old Testament; and he considers the question 
carefully in The City of God, XVIII, ch. xhi-xhv. He had a 
great admiration for the Greek version, and he accepted the legend 
that the translators were divinely guided. And since the Hebrew 
is also inspired, how are we to understand statements in which 
they differ ? The answer is, that ' in cases where the Greek version 
appears to differ from what is stated in the Hebrew {ah Hebraica 
veritate), consideration will show that properly understood they 
agree '. The words * properly understood ' {J)ene intellecti) can 
only refer to allegorism. This is evident from the examples 
which Augustine proceeds to give. His general view is indicated 
in the summary title given to ch. xHi : ' On the authority of the 
Septuagint version, which, granting the value of the Hebrew 
text [quae salvo honore Hebraei stili), is to be preferred to any 

Augustine laboured under the disadvantage of the traditional 
theory of bibhcal inspiration; he had no alternative to the preva- 
lent view, and he loyally accepted it, though not v^thout mis- 
givings. He had postponed his baptism — the final stage of his 
conversion — because of the difficulties which he felt over many 
passages in the Old Testament. In his Confessions he tells how 
the teaching of Ambrose showed him how he could retain the 
integrity of his reason and at the same time accept the ancient 
Scriptures of the Church : ' I rejoiced because I was able to read 


with Other eyes those ancient Scriptures which used to seem so 
irrational. . . . Gladly did I hear Ambrose, in his sermons to the 
people, insisting on the words littera occidit, spiritus autem vivificat 
(II Cor. iii. 6) as a rule to be carefully observed, opening up the 
spiritual sense of passages which used to repel me, and which now 
I heard reasonably explained; and the authority of the Bible 
seemed more worthy of reverential faith, because, while all might 
read it, its inmost thought lay in these deeper meanings.' ^^ 

The strongest opponents of allegorism, in the East, were found 
among the theologians trained in what is called ' the School of 
Antioch ', that is, in the traditions of bibhcal study and interpre- 
tation which were prevalent in that city. They charged the 
allegorical methods of the Alexandrian theologians with explain- 
ing away the historical meaning of many passages in the Bible. 
The historical characteristics of ' the School of Antioch ' are seen 
most fully in Diodore (Bishop of Tarsus, a.d. 378-394) and his 
two famous students, Theodore, who died as Bishop of Mop- 
suestia in CiHcia, in 428, two years before the death of Augustine, 
and Chrysostom (the latter a powerful preacher rather than a 
systematic theologian). The few surviving fragments of Dio- 
dore's writings show that while he contested the trustworthiness 
of allegorism, he emphasised the importance of insight into the 
inner spiritual meaning of the bibhcal narratives. Theodore 
carries these principles further. He insists on getting at the 
historical meaning of the writings which he is studying, but he 
also insists on taking into account the historical circumstances 
under which they were written. Theodore is described as a 
' rationahst '. It would be more instructive to say that his 
bibhcal studies show a determined reasonableness and penetration. 
His ignorance of Hebrew was a grave disadvantage, and led to his 
acceptance of the current fables about the infalhbihts^ of the 
Septuagint as a translation. The strength of his position was in 
his recognition of the fact that the t^vo Testaments are not on the 
same level of religious authority and inspiration, and that we are 
not entitled to read into the Old Testament conceptions which 
do not properly belong to it. We must take our stand on the 
meaning which the original writers intended. It is impossible to 


find the doctrine of the Trinity in the Old Testament. It was 
unknown to the Hebrews, and no proof-texts for it can be found 
there. The idea of the Holy Spirit as a distinct hypostasis (' per- 
sonahty ') was hkewise unknown to the Hebrews. In this case, 
he beheved that where the Old Testament speaks of the Spirit, the 
reference is to the providential order appointed by God, as in the 
great saying in Joel (ii. 28), ' I will pour out my Spirit ', that is, 
bestow upon all men my providential care. 

Theodore recognised that in the historical, the prophetic, and 
the didactic writings contained in the Old Testament there are 
varying degrees of inspiration. He did not find the higher 
inspiration in the ' Wisdom Books ', not even in the Book of Job, 
the poetic power of which was probably beyond his understand- 
ing. He found httle rehgious value in Ezra, Nehemiah, and 
Esther, and he perceived that the Song of Songs was a dramatic 
love-poem. The general conclusion was to see in the other books 
of the Old Testament a progressive unfolding of the divine pur- 
pose, reaching its culmination, beyond the range of the Old 
Testament revelation, in the Incarnation. Among the prophetic 
writings he found three different fields of reference, (i) There 
are prophecies which have a primary and direct reference to Christ, 
and no other historic reference whatever : such are, among the 
Psalms, the second, the forty-fifth, and the hundred and tenth. 
For the rest, he rejected the inscriptions at the head of the Psalms, 
and assigned the poems to various dates down to the Maccabean 
period, (ii) There are prophecies which have a primary and 
direct reference to Old Testament events, but which, provided 
the natural grammatical and historical meaning is observed, may 
be understood typically, in reference to New Testament events. 
A single example must suffice here. The historical reference in 
Amos (ix. 11) foretelling the restoration of the ' tabernacle ' is to 
the expected restoration of the Davidic monarchy. Theodore 
beHeves that a ' typological ' appHcation of the passage is not only 
legitimate but is actually made in the New Testament (Acts xv. 
16-18), where the restoration of the ' tabernacle ' is referred to 
the calling of the ' Gentiles ' — ' that the rest of men may seek 
the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by my Name '. 


(iii) There are prophecies which refer only to OldTestament events. 
These are naturally very numerous. Theodore finds a con- 
spicuous example in the powerful declarations in Micah (iv. 1-3), 
referring to the actual city of Jerusalem. On the other hand, 
Theodore claimed that the original meaning, in some cases, has a 
theological implication relevant to later Christian thought. For 
example, the original reference in Isaiah xlv. 23 is to the provi- 
dence of God ; but Paul transfers it to the risen Christ. Theo- 
dore's comment is to the effect that the words are not used 
specifically of the Father or of the Son, but of the divine Nature as 
such. Hence, he affirms, Paul's reference of the words to the 
risen Christ is justified, because there is no separation of nature 
between the Father and the Son.^*^ 

In his studies of the New Testament, Theodore held ' radical ' 
views about certain writings afterwards finally included in the 
Canon. Fie criticised the ' CathoHc Epistles ', especially those of 
James, the second of Peter, and the second and third of John. But 
for him there was no question of the inspiration and authorit}' of 
the remaining Epistles or the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. 
His treatment of the Epistle to the Galatians shows that he clearly 
understood the situation which confronted Paul there. He found 
it necessary carefully to consider Paul's references to the narrative 
of Hagar and Ishmael, and the Apostle's definite statement that 
' this is an allegory '. Theodore concludes that Paul never 
intended to question the historical character of the story of Hagar 
and Ishmael, but to make a figurative application of it. 

In the Introduction to his translation of the Confessions of 
Augustine, the late Dr. Charles Bigg made an instructive com- 
ment on the allegorical method in general : ' Allegorism was in 
fact philosophy, and a very fine philosophy, struggling, without 
the aid of scientific or laro-e historical knowledge, ao-ainst doubts 
which first suggested themselves to inteUigent Christians or to 
opponents of the Church. Some of these doubts could be met 
only by knowledge or modes of conception as yet undreamt of; 
and in such cases the allegorist was often driven to answers which 
strike the modern reader as forced or even absurd. Some of 
these doubts flowed from those insoluble problems which He at 


the root of all thought ; and in such cases allegorism was the voice 
of human reason, as highly cultivated as it has ever been since.' 

As w^e have seen, allegorism, as a method of interpreting the 
Scriptures, retaiaed an extremely restricted place in Christian 
thought. Such authority as it retained v^as merged in the author- 
ity of Tradition, and the authority of Tradition was merged in 
the authority of the organised Church. The culmination of the 
early Cathohc view of Tradition is seen in the Commonitorium of 
Vincent of Lerinum, that is, of the then famous Monastery on the 
island near Cannes now known as ' L'Isle Saint-Honorat '. The 
work was written a few years after the death of Augustine. It 
appears that the author was roused by the apparently ' unpre- 
cedented ' character of the Augustinian doctrine of Predestination 
and Election to consider the relation of the Faith of the Church to 
its past. He begins by stating what has been called the ' Vincen- 
tian Canon ' : ' Within the Church, the greatest care must be 
taken to hold that which has been beUeved always, everywhere, 
and by all {quod semper, quod ubique, quod ah omnibus), for that is 
truly Cathohc, as the word shows, which is universally inclusive ; 
. . . universal, if we confess the one Faith which the Church 
throughout the world confesses — ancient, if we never depart from 
those interpretations which our Fathers gave — agreed, if we follow 
the traditions and behefs of all, or certainly nearly all, of the 
ancient doctors.' Vincent proceeds to answer two objections 
which naturally arise. ' Here perhaps someone will ask, Since 
the Canon of the Scriptures is complete, what need is there to 
give it the additional authority of ecclesiastical interpretation? 
The answer is, that owing to the very depth of Holy Scripture 
itself, all do not receive it with the same meaning, but interpret 
the declarations of the same writer in different ways, so that it 
seems possible to ehcit from Scripture as many behefs as there are 
men [who read it] .... It is very necessary on account of the 
variety of such errors, that rules should be laid down for the 
interpretation of the prophets and Apostles according to the 
cathohc understanding of them ' {Commonitorium, I. ch. xxui). 
Then the other objection naturally arises : ' Perhaps someone will 
protest. Is there then not to be any progress of rehgion within the 


Church of Christ? ' Vincent raphes, ' Progress, certainly, . . . but 
it must be real progress, not alteration {permutatio) ; for progress 
means development of the subject, while alteration means change 
of one thing into another ; hence throughout the generations, as 
for individuals, so for the whole Church, wisdom and knowledge 
ought to be making wide and vigorous progress, provided that 
this hes within the same field. . . . The growth of rehgion should 
resemble the growth of a hving body, which, though it develops 
and unfolds in the course of years, remains the same.' ^^ 

On the ' Vincentian Canon ', as a general principle, Dr. T. H. 
Bindley observed, in the Introduction to his translation of the 
Commonitorium, ' Like every epigrammatic maxim, the rule had 
its hmitations. Meticulously pressed, it becomes an impossible 
and indeed a ridiculous standard; but understood as I beheve 
Vincent meant it to be understood, it is a valuable guide, and 
embraces even modernism.' We may add that, so understood, it 
demands an understanding of rehgious doctrines and dogmas 
which goes beyond the advice which Vincent gave to Christian 
teachers and preachers : ' Teach the same truths which you have 
learnt, but teach them in such a way that your manner may be 
new, but not your matter.' 



Belief in creation as a divine act or series of acts is vital to the 
Christian conception of mankind and of the world ; but we must 
first consider, on general grounds, what it impHes, apart from its 
treatment in distinctively Christian thought : not its history but 
its imphcations. 

Our ordinary experience is of ourselves and others and the 
contents of the world in which we Hve as ' finite ' — that is, of 
persons and things as dependent on one another in ways the variety 
of which defies enumeration ; but, running through all of these 
are relations of causation in its various forms. Therefore experience 
naturally suggests the idea of a Being who is not dependent on 
' anything else ', who is not limited by other beings, who is in that 
sense self-dependent. Stated thus, in abstract terms, this is the 
philosophical conception of an ' Absolute ', and is not necessarily 
theistic. It becomes theistic when the ' Absolute ' is conceived 
as an existing PersonaHty, and Creation as an act of self-conscious 
Will, supremely effective and supremely rational, bringing into 
existence a world which did not exist in that sense before, but 
which existed in the purposes of God. The apparently paradox- 
ical idea of creation ' out of nothing ', which frequently finds 
expression in the writings of the Fathers, had for them primarily a 
negative meaning — a definite rejection of the notion that God has 
to work with a material which is in some sense given to Him or 
objective to Him. 

It is surprising that so httle attempt was made by the Fathers to 
fmd a positive meaning for the creation of the world ' out of 
nothing ', although there was a clue in the Epistle to the Hebrews 
(xi. 3), where the negative form imphes the positive : the world 
was fashioned by the Word of God, so that visible things were not 
made ' out of phenomena ' — out of other visible things. The 



meaning is brought out in MofFatt's version : ' And thus the 
visible was made out of the invisible.' But the idea that the divine 
creation is ' out of nothing ' established itself in the mind of the 
Church, with the natural conclusion that how creation proceeds 
* out of nothing ' is beyond the utmost limits of human reason to 
comprehend. It is true that the essential nature of the divine 
creative activity is beyond comprehension by human reason ; but 
the problem can and must be carried farther back. Creation, as 
a divine act, means that what was in the Mind of God becomes 
objective to us as the world of our experience. This is possible 
only because we are fmite beings, and consequently the world of 
our experience is hmited in every respect by our hmited capacity 
for apprehending it. The fundamental question therefore is this : 
how God has brought fmite rational creatures into being; and 
this is absolutely beyond our comprehension. We cannot dig up 
the roots of our own existence. 

A kindred question arises in connection with our knowledge of 
the nature of God. It is futile to ask. What God is ' in Himself, 
even if the question, so stated, has any meaning, which is doubtflil. 
But when we ask ' What God is to Himself, we see that God's 
experience of His own being is and must be comprehended only 
by God Himself, for the plain reason that we are men, and not 
God. This undeniable and inevitable fact does not invahdate our 
belief that God has entered and does enter into relations with the 
created world — relations which transcend the divine act of creating 
it and maintaining it in being. Neither does it invahdate behet 
in the relation of unity between the Divine and the Human. Unit)' 
and difference, both in logic and in reahty, are involved in one 
another. Stated thus, as a generahsation, this principle, so far 
from being a paradox, is almost a truism. Before we can assert 
unity, we must make a distinction which impHes a difference ; and 
if the difference disappears, the unity which we intended to assert 
disappears with it. Witliin the field of fmite experience, the fact 
is universal. It is enough to point out that a hving body is a 
unity only because it is a unity of different organs and functions. 
In historical theology the affirmation that ' God is One ' is first 
of all an affirmation of monotheism, not an attempt to explain the 


divine nature as a ' unity ' w^hich excludes all internal differences. 
Denial that unity is a relation usually rests on a disastrous logical 
fallacy which may be described, in general terms, as the ' All or 
None ' fallacy. We are offered two contrary generaHsations 
about the same subject, each stated categorically and without 
qualification. They cannot both be entirely true ; and it is taken 
for granted that we must accept the one absolutely or reject the 
other absolutely. What is overlooked or ignored, in the ' All or 
None ' fallacy, is the possibihty that both the contraries may be 
whoUy false, or, what is more usually the case, that there may be a 
partial truth (perhaps a very important truth) in each ; and then 
it is our duty, as rational beings, to briug out the partial truths and 
examine the possibihty of their reconciliation. 

The ' key-note ' of Christian theism in the ApostoHc Age is 
heard in the words of Paul (I Cor. viii. 5 and 6), which we quote 
in Moffatt's version : ' So-called gods there may be, in heaven or 
on earth, as indeed there are plenty of them, both gods and 
" lords ", — but for us, there is one God, the Father, from whom 
all comes, and for whom we exist ; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by 
whom all exists, and by whom we exist.' At present, we are 
concerned specially with the purely theistic statement — one God, 
the Father, the Source and Object of all being. In a later genera- 
tion a man of far more Hmited mental and spiritual outlook stated 
it thus : ' First of all, beheve that God is One, even He who 
created all things and set them in order, and brought all things 
from non-existence into existence : who comprehends aU things, 
but is Himself incomprehensible.' By placing this statement at 
the opening of his first ' Mandate ', Hermas expressed his convic- 
tion that monotheism is the first principle of the Christian Faith. 
We may generahse this statement. When the Fathers insisted on 
conceiving the work of creation as a definite act or series of acts of 
Will, they were true to the intense monotheism of the prophetic 
tradition in Israel, The prophetic movement of which we have 
historic records began in the work of Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah, 
and rose to its height in the ethical monotheism of the Second 
Isaiah, in which ' Jehovah ' ceased to be a merely national Provi- 
dence or Judge. He was a universal Providence, assigning to each 


nation its mission in history. But the experience of the exiles to 
whom he spoke intensified the passion of nationalism and the 
sense of being a pecuhar people ; and when Ezekiel re-stated and 
emphasised the rehgious individuaUsm of Jeremiah, his ideal was 
that of an ecclesiastical system which was at once a theocracy and a 
Church. The attempt of Antiochus ' Epiphanes ' to hellenise the 
whole people led, through the Maccabean revolt, to the transfer 
of religious influence to the Pharisees — the Jewish Puritans. The 
domination of ' the chief priests ' — as they are significantly called 
in the Gospels — inevitably came to an end after a.d. 70; but the 
monotheism of the prophets, capable of becoming a universal 
rehgion, became in the end a rehgion which was racial and 
national. Nevertheless, that monotheism had within it some- 
thing which could not perish, and which entered into the heart of 
the Gospel gathered round the unique Person of Jesus Christ, 
And since men are rational beings, Christian thinkers looked, for 
an understanding of that Faith, to a principle which was distinctive 
of the higher rehgious thought of the time. 

From the second century onwards, the Christian doctrine of 
creation is inseparable from the conception of the creative Word 
(the Logos) of God. The statements in the ' ApostoHc Fathers ' 
about this idea are fragmentary and undeveloped ; but even dur- 
ing the later years of the first century we find it becoming of 
cardinal importance. The Greek word Logos has no exact equiva- 
lent in any other language; the conventional English rendering, 
' Word ', conceals part of the meaning — in reference to Christian 
thought, the most important part. The Greek term came to be 
used as the name of a philosophical principle of a distinctive 
character. For its Greek origin, we must go back to Heracleitus 
of Ephesus (500 B.C.). With him, it was grafted into an extreme 
pantheistic doctrine. The movement of the world was an ever- 
changing process of destruction and renewal involved inseparably 
in each other, but maintained in perfect order by a principle at once 
rational and active, which he named the Logos. This union of 
rationality and activity is one of his contributions to ancient 
thought ; the other is his vivid intuition of the world in which all 
things are subject to perpetual change, and arc continually dying 


into each other's hfe. The philosophical idea of the Logos 
remained a floating idea in Greek thought, until the founders of 
Greek Stoicism made it widely influential. The activity of the 
founders belongs to the period which may be approximately 
dated from 275 to 200 B.C. They could not imagine the Logos in 
other than material terms; but they conceived it as not only 
rational and active but productive, manifested in aU the pheno- 
mena of Nature, and present in all creatures. Only man shares 
in it in the highest degree, so that in virtue of this principle men 
are members of a universal community. The result was, that the 
idea of the Logos came to be common property among Hellenistic 
circles interested in rehgious thought, including Greek-speaking 
Jews ; but Philo of Alexandria — whose importance for the history 
of Christian thought has been very much exaggerated — was the 
first Jewish thinker to work the idea into an elaborate syncretism 
of divergent Greek conceptions. 

The author of the Fourth Gospel introduces the idea of the 
Logos as if it was generally known in the Christian circles for 
whom (in the first instance) he was writing. Whatever view we 
may or may not take in reference to the important historical and 
theological questions arising out of the Fourth Gospel, certain 
facts are beyond reasonable dispute. It cannot possibly have 
come as a ' bolt from the blue '. It must have come into use, at 
first, among thoughtful Christians who were specially interested 
in the rehgious significance of the Logos doctrine ; and, so far as 
the Christian use of the idea was a subject of ' propaganda ', 
Ephesus was its natural home. In Ephesus arose, or survived, a 
man of profound rehgious genius, who, at a date near the end of 
the first century, gave to his fellow-Christians this work, which 
bears every mark of prolonged and earnest thinking. Behind 
him stood the traditions now embodied in the synoptic Gospels, 
together with other sources not chronicled in those traditions. 
He took the decisive step, once for all, of applying to Jesus Christ 
the principle of the Logos as an essentially divine Being, with a 
meaning which was entirely ahen to Greek thought and would 
have been inconceivable to Philo : ' The Word was made 
(or, became) flesh.' This diflerence is one of immeasurable 


significance. In this sense the idea was used by the Greek 
Apologists during the century following, and it afterwards 
became one of the first principles of Christian thought and 

Among the Greek Apologists, Justin Martyr stands out through 
the comprehensiveness of his doctrine and the abihty shown in his 
presentation of it. The difficulties into which he fell when 
endeavouring to explain the relation of the divine Word to the 
Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have lent plausibility to 
the charge that he was a ' muddled theologian '. This vital 
question will be considered in the sequel. 

With regard to essential Theism, we can trace in Justin's 
writings the influence of what is known as the ' Middle Platonism ' 
— one of the more important among the philosophies and pre- 
tended philosophies of the period from the first century B.C. to the 
second century a.d. It had departed from Plato — so far as his 
doctrine is represented in the Dialogues — in identifying the 
' Forms ' (the ideal principles which Plato beheved to be the source 
of all real knowledge) with ideas actually forming the content of 
the divine Mind. But what is extremely important is the 
emphasis laid on the idea of the divine Mind as wholly tran- 
scendent, and not to be thought of as in direct contact with the 
material world or as accessible to the human soul in this hfe, 
save through intermediate beings, or in rare moments of illumina- 
tion granted to a favoured few. As a representative of the move- 
ment at its best, we may name Plutarch, whose dates are from 
about A.D. 50 to 125. At its worst, the movement left open a 
large field, which spurious ' mysticism ' and current superstition 
were ready to occupy. 

We have barely indicated the most essential nature of the move- 
ment because we are here concerned only wdth its influence on 
Justin's theism. It is evident that Justin adopted the doctrine of 
divine transcendence with some degree of insight into its meaning, 
thus giving some definiteness to the current statements of the 
divine Nature as incomprehensible and ineffable; and he com- 
bined the conception of God which he had learnt from his Greek 
studies with the monotheism distinctive of Hebrew prophecy. 


God is Absolute Being — the Septuagint version of Exodus iii. 14, 
where no name is given. Justin maintains that God has no name, 
for a name, when it has any real meaning, is the name of an 
individual or a class. The words God, Lord, Creator, Father are 
not ' proper names ' in the grammatical or logical sense ; they are 
descriptive terms derived from our experience of the relations of 
the Being so described to us and to the world. In particular, the 
word ' God ' corresponds to the idea, which Justin beheved to 
be ' innate ' in human nature, of a Being indefinable in human 
terms because beyond all that is human (Second Apology, vi). He 
definitely rejects all ' anthropomorphic ' ideas of Deity and any 
assumption that God is the Head of a ' hierarchy ' of intermediate 
beings. In Justin's thought, therefore, the Logos is a Hving, 
principle o£ mediation between God, the absolute and eternal, and 
the world of ever-changing finite creatures. God, abiding for 
ever above the heavens, holds no unmediated intercourse vdth 
men. Justin insists on the need, as it were in the nature of things, 
of an intermediary Being : ' No thoughtful person would venture 
to say that the Creator of the universe, having left all that is above 
the heavens, appeared Himself on a small region of this earth,' 
Here he is thinking of the various ways in which the divine 
appearances on earth are recorded in the Old Testament. It was 
the Logos who appeared, ' sometimes in human form, sometimes 
as an angel, sometimes as fire, serving in this world the God who 
is above the world ' [Dialogue, ch. Ix). Again, having spoken in 
exalted terms of God the Father, Justin asks, ' How could He 
either be seen by anyone, or appear on a very small portion of this 
earth, when the people at Sinai could not bear to behold the glory 
even of Moses His messenger ? . . . Neither Abraham nor any 
other man saw the Father, the ineffable Lord of all ; but they saw 
him whom the Father sent, who according to His will was at 
once God, Lord, and Saviour ' [Dialogue, ch. cxxvi). The true 
means of our approach to an understanding of the Nature and 
Will of God is through the divine Word, always in communica- 
tion with mankind, always present in the world, but completely 
revealed in the Incarnation. Through Jesus Christ, we learn that 
God is the supreme Ruler of aU created things, and Father of 


every Good, rewarding and punishing all rational beings according 
to their works. 

This indicates Justin's conviction of the relation of the divine 
Word to the human race at large. We find that he had adopted 
and made his own the idea implied in the Stoic metaphor of the 
Logos as ' seed ', but he uses it in a way which no Stoic pliilosopher 
would have accepted. Every race of men has had a share in the 
Logos scattered as ' seed ' among them , and on this ground men 
become responsible beings. ' Those who hved according to the 
divine Word were Christians, even though men called them 
atheists ' [Apology, ch. xlvi). ' Whatever truths men have dis- 
covered and expressed belong to us Christians, for all who spoke 
from the implanted Word spoke from a vision of the truth, 
though it was imperfectly seen. But the seeds of the Truth, given 
to men according to their capacities, are not the same as the Truth 
itself {Second Apology, ch. xiii, abridged). On this ground 
Justin explains the apparent resemblances between the teaching of 
the great constructive philosophers and that of the divine Word. 
Sometimes he seems to entertain the idea of borrowing (on the 
part of the philosophers) from the Jewish Scriptures ; but he does 
not elaborate the idea. His attitude towards the Greek philoso- 
phers is appreciative, and not at all ' denunciatory '. 

In the work of Irenseus, we find that the assimilation of the 
divine Word with Christ the Son of God has proceeded far; and 
nothing is gained, for the understanding of his convictions, by 
attempting to set forth his doctrine of the Logos in distinction 
from his doctrine of Jesus Christ the Son. To this central question 
we return in the sequel. 

Irenaeus throws down the challenge to ' Gnosticism ' ac the 
outset : ' It is right that I should begin with the first and most 
important belief — in God, the Creator of the heavens and the 
earth and all that is in them, the only Creator and the only Father, 
comprehending all things, yet remaining over all.' In reference 
to the many problems, some of them insoluble by our hmited 
capacities, which theistic behef presents to our reason, Irenaeus 
pleads for caution and humility : ' It is better far to be ^^'ithout 
much learning but through love to draw near to God, than to 


imagine ourselves to have grasped the deep things of knowledge 
and to miss vital divine truth. When Paul said, Knov^ledge 
puffs up, but love builds up, he was censuring not a sound and 
saving knowledge of God, otherwise he would have been censur- 
ing himself, but men who, puffed up with knowledge falsely so 
called, and imagining themselves to be perfect, have lost the real 
knowledge of God. It is better to trust in God and abide in his 
love, even if we do not understand the reasons why created things 
are as they are, than to lose divine truth over subtle problems and 
be lost in a maze of words.' His own faith is thus summed up. 
After affirming that the unity of God is the first principle of nature 
and of Grace, he proceeds : ' One only God, the Creator : the 
Father who wrought creatively through His Word and His Wis- 
dom, bringing into existence the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all 
that is in them : divine in Justice and in Goodness : the God of 
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the hving : who gave the 
Law, whose work the prophets foretold, whom Christ revealed.' ^ 
Irenaeus firmly held the reahty of a primitive monotheism : 
' All men, from the earhest times, have beheved in one God, 
Maker of the heavens and the earth.' Speaking on behalf of con- 
temporary Christian behevers, he observes : ' We may rise in 
thought from the order of the natural world and the hmited per- 
fections of created beings to the nature of God : but not so as to 
ascribe to God these quahties in the form in which they exist in 
creatures. The divine Reason, comprehending all things, is 
rightly named Reason, provided we do not understand by it a 
reason hke ours : it is rightly called Light, but not hght as we 
imderstand it.' This combination of affirmation and negation 
imphes an argument from analogy in reference to the relation of 
the divine and the human.^ 

The reference to a God-given order did not exclude, it even 
imphed, behef in miracles ; and neither did it exclude beHef in a 
multitude of evil spirits (demons). Hence it is necessary to judge 
miracles by their purpose. The early Fathers were convinced 
that it was possible for Christian behevers endowed with ' the 
gifts of the Spirit ' to achieve wonderful works of mercy, in 
particular the healing of what we now understand by ' mental 


diseases '. Justin, referring to the miracles recorded in the Old 
Testament, had affirmed that the men who wrought them are 
worthy of our confidence ' because they glorified God and taught 
faith in His Word ' : ' the false prophets ', he said, ' cannot 
accomphsh these things (these spiritual deeds), though they do 
perform wonders to deceive men ' — ' wonders ', the corresponding 
Greek term is frequently used in the Synoptic Gospels to describe 
the miracles of Christ. Irenaeus takes the same view. He was 
prepared to beheve that some of the ' Gnostics ' could work 
miracles, ' but not by God-given power — only to glorify them- 
selves '. This means that the value of any alleged miracle is to 
be judged by the purpose which it serves. The teaching of him 
who wrought the miracle justifies the miracle, not the miracle the 

When we turn to the work of the Alexandrian theologians, a 
prehminary question of the first importance at once arises. 
Tertulhan would have called it a prescriptio, and settled it in a 
summary way himself. 

A number of distinguished Christian scholars in the nineteenth 
century were accustomed to charge the Alexandrian Fathers — and 
indeed Hellenic theology generally — with placing metaphysics 
above ethics and religion, with the result that pagan philosophy 
took the place of the saving faith which is the essence of Chris- 
tianity. This view underhes the whole treatment of the history 
of Christianity in Hamack's History of Dogma. It need not be said 
that Harnack does not deny that faith must give to its content an 
expression in words which state its meaning, and that its meaning 
must be made clear. But when this admission is made, it imphes 
a claim which must be carried farther. The endowments of man's 
nature include a mind and a reasoning faculty; and when doc- 
trines are offered to him as interpretations of his being, of his 
whole hfe here and hereafter, he must needs endeavour to study 
and grasp their meaning with the whole of his nature. Christian- 
ity became theological because man is rational. With an unsur- 
passed knowledge of the historical facts at the time when he wrote, 
Harnack sees in the history of Christian doctrine, and indeed in the 
history of the Church at large, an ahen philosophical method and 


an illegimate growth of ecclesiastical authority. The Gospel of 
the historic Jesus was diverted from its original rehgious value by 
the acceptance of Jewish * apocalyptic ' hopes, by the intrusion of 
Graeco-Roman behefs about God and the soul, and in particular 
by the Logos doctrine, resulting in a philosophy unfit for the 
expression of the Gospel. We cannot resist the conclusion that 
Hamack's estimate of the history of doctrine and of the Church is 
not only condemnatory to an excess, but is profoundly pessimistic. 
It is true that there has been a real spiritual danger emerging from 
age to age in the history of Christianity ; but its sources have had 
nothing to do with the influence of philosophy on the Gospel. 
As time went on, more stress was laid on the stated content of the 
faith than on faith as an inner habit of mind. For the purposes of 
unity and fellowship, it was easier to deal with characteristics 
which were comparatively external, in the sense that they were 
methods of organisation which appeared to be necessary. And 
this was accompanied by a similar change of emphasis in the 
intellectual expression and formulation of what was beHeved to 
be essential Christian truth. Moreover, it is of the first impor- 
tance to bear in mind the two ways in which the Fatherhood of 
God was understood, above all in the fourth century, (i) On 
the one hand, primary emphasis was placed on the philosophical 
significance of the Fatherhood, on the idea of God as the Infinite 
and Eternal, the Source of all being, the Almighty Creator of the 
heavens and the earth, (ii) On the other hand, primary emphasis 
was placed on the ethical and spiritual significance of the Father- 
hood, imderstood in the hght of the ideals of Life and Love set 
forth in the four Gospels. A controversy about the relation of 
the incarnate Christ to ' the Father ' may differ fundamentally, 
when the ' Fatherhood ' of God is understood primarily in the 
first of these two meanings, and when it is understood in the 

Clement of Alexandria does not hesitate to carry to its extreme 
issue the idea of the transcendence of God. We rise to the idea of 
God, in His essence, first by abstracting from all corporeal and 
spatial conditions, and then by abstracting from all time and 
change : ' The First Cause is beyond time and space, beyond all 


change, beyond all naming and understanding.' All that remains 
is the abstract idea of unity ; but we must not say that ' God is 
One ' if that means ' one among others '. If this were all of 
Clement's idea of God, it would simply be a doctrine of the 
' Unknowable '. But it is not all of his thought of God. If God 
is in His essential being far away, in rehgious experience He is very 
near. If for logic there is an antinomy or apparent contradiction, 
Clement is prepared to retain the antinomy rather than sacrifice 
either side. This triumph of experience over logic is accounted 
for, so far as is humanly possible, through the idea of the divine 
Word. The doctrine of the divine Word (the Logos) is vital to 
the religious interpretation of the world in Clement's thinking, 
and to his understanding of the Christian rehgion. 

The divine creative and over-ruHng activity in relation to the 
world is mediated through the Word, the Power and Wisdom of 
God. Through him (the Word) the Power and Wisdom of God 
move into the world in a descending series of degrees : ' Rank is 
subordinate to rank, under different leaders; ... at the upper 
limit of creation are the activities of the angels ; and so, even down 
to ourselves, rank after rank is appointed, all saving and being 
saved by the initiation and through the instrumentality of One.' 
According to Clement, consistently with this ' doctrine of 
degrees ', the narrative of the six days of creation, though it is not 
to be wholly allegorised, is not to be understood Hterally. The 
narrative of creation on successive days is a revelation of order : 
' Not of a series of divine acts following after one another, but of 
the comparative worth of those things which are primary and 
from which others have come : through the divine Reason they 
were all created in one supreme act of Power, for the rational 
Will of God is for ever identical with itself.' The ' rest ' of God 
does not mean that He ceased to be active. His Nature is the 
absolute Good, and if He ceased to manifest His goodness He 
would cease to be God. ' The rest of God means that the created 
order of things shall be preserved.' Reading as he did in the 
Greek version, Clement understands ' the Image of God ' as the 
divine Logos, ' the archetypal Light of Hght ' : 'for there is in 
man a rational nature which is declared to have been created in the 


image and likeness of God ' — a capacity of the human soul which 
is rational because it is from the divine Logos.^ 

The Alexandrian Fathers appear to have been satisfied with the 
idea of creation ' out of nothing ', although TertuUian, in one of 
his rare philosophical moods, had pointed out its positive imphca- 
tion : ' If God needed material for the work of creation, He had a 
far nobler and more worthy material [than what we call " mat- 
ter "] namely, His Wisdom [another name for the Logos], the 
divine Wisdom through whom and with whom He created all 
things. . . . Who would not find inspiration in the idea that the 
Wisdom of God is the source and origin of all things, the material 
of all matter [materia vero materiarum), such as God could have 
needed for His creative work, needing as He did what was His 
own and not ahen to Him? ' ^ 

The theory of TertuUian, that even spirit is a finer kind of 
' matter ', was impossible for the Alexandrians. Origen, like 
Clement, firmly maintained the transcendence of God ; but he 
rejected (at any rate by imphcation) any merely abstract idea of 
' infinity ' in reference to the attributes of God. The divine 
attributes are essentially related to one another, and in that sense are 
' hmited ' : thus, the Omnipotence of God is hmited by His 
Wisdom and His Goodness. In that sense, we may say that He 
' is not able ' to do evil for its own sake, for that would be a change 
in His essential nature.^ 

The first creation was of spirits, immaterial and free, but capable 
of self-directed action. Through that capacity, they ' fell '. 
Therefore God ordained for all created spirits differences in the 
range of their activities according to the extent of their departure 
from their primal state : some becoming angels, others being 
embodied in the souls of men, others animating the heavenly 
bodies, others surviving as, within their Hmits, hostile to God. 
For human souls, this world is a training-groimd, where men, still 
being free, but not without divine aid, may regain what had been 
lost, and at length rise to the consummation where ' all that any 
rational being thinks, feels, or understands, is wholly God '7 
This is possible, because the Spirit of God, incarnate as the in- 
dwelling Christ, enters into the souls of men as Master and Guide, 


ever reminding of good and evil. Therefore, God does not enter 
into our minds v^holly from outside; ' the holy thoughts that 
enter into our hearts are messages of God to us '. Our inner 
experiences are extemaHsed by our own minds.^ 

Origen's belief about the consummation impHes that it must be 
a very far distant event. He assumed a succession of worlds, each 
formed out of the material of its predecessor but not identical with 
its predecessor : ' Is it not absurd to suppose that God did not at 
first exert an activity essential to His own Nature, and that He 
afterwards came to exert it? If there never was a time when God 
was not almighty, there must always have been objects in virtue of 
which He was almighty, and beings owning Him as their Creator.' 
Thus, in reference to the Incarnation, ' there is no need for God to 
undergo change, as Celsus thinks we beHeve, and least of all for 
God to change from supreme perfection to Hmitation. He de- 
scends in coming to meet human needs by forethought and provi- 
dence.' Origen therefore is convinced that innumerable ages of 
fmite Hfe passed before this world was made, and innumerable 
ages more will pass away before the supreme End of Creation is 

In chronological order, after Origen, among the greater thinkers 
moulding the mind of the Christian Church stands out the figure 
of Athanasius of Alexandria. Athanasius died in 373 ; but in his 
teaching, and indeed throughout the Nicene period, the essential 
ideas of the nature of God, the relation of God and man, and the 
nature and destiny of man are actually part of the doctrine of the 
Person and Work of Jesus Christ. For the present, therefore, we 
turn to the Cappadocian Fathers : Basil, Bishop of Csesarea, who 
died in 379 ; his brother, Gregory of Nyssa, who died in 394 ; and 
his friend, Gregory of Nazianzus, who died in 390. Trained in 
the best philosophical schools of the time, they did not sacrifice 
reHgion to philosophy. They endeavoured to make use of philo- 
sophical conceptions to help in the understanding of Christian 

With respect to essential theism, they found themselves in 
direct conflict with the propaganda of Eunomius, who was 
advocating extreme Arianism with great abihty. But he started 


with the assumption that the divine nature, being absolutely 
' simple ', is entirely comprehensible by the human mind. In 
other words, he started with a word which when used as a philo- 
sophical term is ambiguous in the extreme. The Cappadocian 
Fathers dealt with this assumption in the spirit of Origen. The 
divine Nature, as it is for God Himself, is beyond human compre- 
hension, because we are finite beings, and God is infinite, that is, 
dependent on nothing beyond HimselE But they perceived that 
the logical result is not to conclude that God is either absolutely 
unknowable or enthely comprehensible by the human mind. 
Thus, Basil affirms that the primary possibihty for our minds is to 
know God ' so far as the infinitely great can be known by the 
very small ' ; and again, ' the rational capacities of our minds were 
given to us so that we may understand the truth, and God is the 
essential truth ', but not without divine aid : ' the mind which is 
animated by the divine Spirit becomes capable of beholding the 
greatest things ... so far as its nature can comprehend them '. 
And Gregory of Nazianzus affirms that the limitations of our 
knowledge of God are due to our embodiment ' in the darkness 
of this world ' ; but, notwithstanding that, ' the divine Love and 
Mercy are ever open to our comprehension '. And Basil, again : 
' He who had entered into all that pertains to the healing of the 
human race, through prophets, righteous rulers, and righteous 
men, at length granted us the mercy of His dweUing among 

When we turn to the West, and to Augustine, we see at once 
that the idea of Faith is of fundamental import for his philosophy 
of knowledge and for his theology. When he speaks of ' faith ', 
he is not thinking of mere assent to theological propositions, or of 
mere ' intuitions '. Faith is an active function of the soul, 
prompting our rational faculties to search out the reasons for its 
content. If knowledge and faith are set in opposition to one 
another, the efficacy of both is destroyed : ' If we wish first only to 
know and then only to believe, we should not be able either to 
know or to beheve.' If we attempted to start with knowledge 
entirely destitute of faith, we should find that knowledge itself, on 
such terms, was impossible : ' Understanding is the reward of 


faith : do not seek to understand in order that you may have faith, 
but have faith in order that you may understand.' ^^ 

The Augustinian conception of Faith cannot be detached from 
the fundamental idea that divine illumination is needed for the 
apprehension and understanding of any truth : ' No created 
being, hov^ever rational, is illuminated by and through itself 
alone, but is illuminated by participation in eternal truth.' 
Augustine was, of course, aware that there was nothing pecuHar 
to Christianity in the ascription of all knowledge to ' illumination ' 
in this sense. Plotinus and his disciples had emphasised the con- 
ception, and it was in Plotinus that Augustine first met with it : 
' Plotinus, commenting on Plato, repeatedly and strongly affirms 
that the soul becomes blessed only through that Light which is 
distinct from it but from which it came, and by whose illumina- 
tion it is capable of rational insight. This great Platonist, there- 
fore, affirms that all souls, even the souls of the immortals, derive 
the hght of rational insight from no other source than that from 
which it is granted to us Christians.' ^^ The central thought goes 
back to Plato, in The Republic, where he speaks of the analogy 
between the Supreme Good and the Sun. Just as the perception 
of colour requires something more than a coloured surface and an 
eye to see it — it requires light — so the simplest act of knowledge 
requires something more than a knowable object and a mind to 
know it : there must be something corresponding to the hght of 
the sun, an illumination of the mind by its spiritual Sun, the divine 
Reason (for Augustine, the uncreated Word). This was, for 
him, an apphcation to all knowledge of the Psalmist's words, ' In 
Thy Light shall we see hght.' His quotations show that he 
attached great importance to all that is said in the Johannine 
writings in reference to the divine Light. It is a conception of 
Faith which has an important bearing on the position assigned 
to the proofs of the existence of God. Augustine holds that the 
argument from creatures as effects to God as Cause, must not be 
understood as an attempt at a logical journey starting from some- 
thing assumed to be entirely undivine, and arriving at the existence 
of something absolutely divine. The argument is only possible 
and only vahd in virtue of the actual presence of the divine Word 


to the human mind as the Light of its understanding ; and this 
impHes a latent knowledge of God's existence. This is not a 
quotation ; but it is a direct implication of Augustine's statements 
in reference to the reahty of divine ' illumination '. 

Augustine never supposed that every detail of human knoMr- 
ledge rests on a special divine revelation. The mind of man, even 
within its hmitations as a finite created being, is endowed by God 
with a ' natural hght ', the Hght of its own rational understanding ; 
and only because it is so endowed is the human mind capable of 
assimilating the divine illumination. ' The Light which en- 
Ughtens is one thing; the Hght which is enhghtened is another 
thing,' Then, pursuing the metaphor of our eyes as ' Hghts ' 
{lumina; so in Cicero, Virgil, and others), he proceeds: 'As 
those eyes which we have in our heads and call " Hghts ", when 
they are sound and wide open, need the aid of Hght from without, 
and if this is taken away, though they may be sound and wide 
open, they cannot see : so our mind, as rational, which is the eye 
of the soul, unless it is irradiated by the Light of Truth, and shone 
upon by Him who enHghtens all, cannot attain to wisdom and 
righteousness.' ^^ 

In the Hght of this conclusion, what are we to understand by a 
miracle? The answer is clear and defmite. The universe itself 
is a miracle. ' Those who doubt whether the unseen God has 
wrought miracles that can be seen, do not deny that He made the 
actuaUy existing world. Whatever miracles, therefore, take place 
within the world are far less than the miracle of the world itself — 
the order of the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.' He 
points out that the familiar order of the heavens and the earth may 
be, and usuaUy is, regarded as a matter of course ; but when 
considered truly, it is seen to be as wonderful as any event which 
seems to be a breach of that order.^^ 

A miracle, it is said, is contrary to Nature. Augustine repHes 
as foUows : ' Humanly speaking, we may say that an event is 
contrary to Nature when it is contrary to the ordinary course of 
Nature, to which mortals have become accustomed. But God, 
who has created and formed aU natures, and from whom aU 
variety, order, and harmony proceed, does nothing contrary to 


Nature as Nature really is. For us, it is legitimate to say that God 
does something contrary to Nature when we mean contrary to 
what we know as Nature. But God never acts against the 
supreme and universal order which is the reahty of Nature, for 
that would be to act against His own Being. The more the soul 
of man shares in the Hght of that universal order, the more clearly 
he sees what is possible and what is not; the further he is from 
that insight, the more he marvels at what is contrary to custom, 
and the less he discerns what is really possible.^* Under the 
conditions of Christian thought at the time, it was inevitable that 
Augustine should maintain the actual historical character of all 
the miracles recorded in the canonical Scriptures of the Old and 
New Testaments. 

The central avenue of the soul's approach to God by the way of 
pure reason rests on the fact that there is knowledge which is 
certain, and that God is the Author of certainty. The primary 
certainty is of one's own existence. Many passages might be 
quoted. We give two short but effective statements. Augustine 
imagines himself to be questioned by a voice expressive of 
Reason : ' Reason : you desire to have knowledge : do you knoiu 
that you exist? Augustine: I do know it. Reason : Whence or 
how do you know it? Augustine : I cannot tell. . . . Reason : But 
do you know that you are now thinking ? Augustine : I do know 
it. Reason : Then it is true that you are now thinking ? Augustine : 
It is true.' Again : ' Truths of this kind have nothing to fear 
from the sceptics. They say, You may be deceived. But if I 
am deceived, I exist ; a non-existent cannot even be deceived. It 
is certain therefore that I am not deceived in knowing that I 
exist.' ^^ 

Then the question arises, are there any other truths in which the 
same certainty can be discerned? It is an error to attribute to 
Augustine a doctrine of ' innate ideas ', resting as it were in our 
minds, wdth which God has endowed us, aad w^hich we can dis- 
cover by looking into our own minds. But there are truths 
which when expressed as propositions and understood are 
accepted by all normally rational persons, although they are not 
given by our senses. Such are all propositions expressing relations 


of numbers. For illustration, he takes a simple example, as ' seven 
plus three equals ten '. The assumption that such ideas are 
created by each mind from itself alone makes the agreement of 
different minds the result of accident : in other words, there is no 
real connection between my behef that seven plus three equals ten, 
and your behef. Augustine is convinced that there is a real 
connection, because the divine Word is present to all, not only as 
the word of the human teacher, or as the word of the pupil, but as 
common to both, as the real Teacher (Magister) instructing and 
leading them both to the same truth. The whole of the dis- 
cussion in his De Magistro is based on the principle which we have 

Augustine fmds in the laws of number a series of problems 
which we cannot solve ; but our abihty to state them as problems 
for our minds, imphes a Mind for whom they are not ' problems '. 
In effect, he opens up questions in the philosophy of Mathematics 
which could not have been carried further in the hght of science 
at that period. In the first place, he raises the question whether 
numbers as units can have a merely empirical foundation, based 
entirely on the material given to our bodily senses. He does not 
beheve that this view is tenable. Since the idea of number is the 
idea of a unit successively apphed, the idea of a unit is funda- 
mental ; and this idea cannot be derived from the ever-changing 
continuous material given to our bodily senses.^® Much less can 
the laws of combination of such units be merely empirical. We 
must look beyond fmite human reason for the source of such laws 
of our thinking. In the second place, there is the question of the 
infinity of numbers. ' However great is the series of numbers 
which we suppose to have completed, it can be increased by the 
addition of further units. There cannot be a completed enumera- 
tion of an infmite series of numbers ; but this is not incompre- 
hensible to God, whose Reason is not subject to enumeration. 
Thus, if every quantity is completed (fnitur) in the mind of a man 
who thinks of the quantity as so defined, aU infinity, in a way 
which we cannot comprehend, is completed in God, for whom 
there is no necessary passing (as there is for us) from the idea of a 
greater to the idea of a greater still, or from the idea of a smaller to 


the idea of a smaller still.' ^^ The laws of number, to the mind of 
Augustine, are a primary and fundamental case of the universal 
laws on which the order of the created universe depends, and which 
we may think of as ' Ideas ' in the Platonic sense, expressing to us 
the divine Reason, so that by this illumination we can conceive 

The theory that the laws of the relations of numbers to one 
another are essential in the created universe, explains Augustine's 
conception o£ matter as identical with space : ' Nothing is 
corporeal unless, whether at rest or in motion, it has length, 
breadth, and depth, so that a larger part of it occupies a larger part 
of space, a smaller part of it a smaller part of space, and every part 
of it is less than the whole.' ^^ The meaning of this statement is in 
principle the same as that of the Cartesian theory, thirteen cen- 
turies later, that ' matter ' is essentially ' extension ' — space and 
movement. This impHes the possibihty of the infinite divisibiht)" 
of ' matter '. ' Matter increases by occupying more space, and 
decreases by occupying less space. It may be increased so as to 
become the whole universe. It may be diminished by continual 
division into smaller and smaller particles, always approaching 
annihilation but never reaching it.' What remains, however 
small, is still a body and still spatial.^^ 

Even if it had been possible for Augustine to pursue these 
questions further, it is improbable that he would have attempted 
to do so. His absolutely over-ruling interest was in rehgion, and 
we have seen that it was the bearings of these questions on the 
philosophy of theism that interested him most. The supremely 
worthy objects of knowledge are God and the Soul : ' Deum ct 
animam scire cupio. Nihilne plus? Nihil omnino.' But he was 
prepared, when necessary, to bring forward arguments of a 
strictly scientific character. Thus, when criticising the Mani- 
cheans, he says, after recalling what he had read from trustworthy 
writers of the time on astronomical questions : ' I compared it 
with the statements of Manicheus, who in his crazY follv had 
written much on these questions ; but I could not find [in what he 
had written] any explanation of the solstices, the equinoxes, the 
ecHpses, and other facts of the same kind which I had leanit troni 


secular scientists. Yet I was to believe things w^hich did not agree 
with the results of trustworthy calculations, or with my own 
observations, but was entirely opposed to them.' ^° 

It seems that Augustine had been asked why this world was not 
created ' sooner '. He repHed that the question has no meaning. 
* Sooner ' impHes time, and time was created when the world was 
created. God ' precedes ' all things, not as a workman precedes 
his work, but ' by the subhmity of His ever-present Eternity '. In 
our experience, we know what we mean by ' the present ' ; but if 
the present never extended into the past or into the future, it 
would be our Eternity. For us, past and future exist only as 
memory and as expectation ; and both of these are present mental 
activities. Time is measured as it passes, and the results of the 
measurements can be apphed to the past as remembered [he 
might have added ' or recorded '] and to the future as ' expected '. 
Time, therefore, if we understand it simply as a succession of past, 
present, and future, is in the human mind, which looks back (remem- 
bers), attends (in the present), and looks forward (expects). 
The following illustration is important : ' I am about to repeat a 
Psalm which I know. Before I begin, the whole is before me as 
expectation. When I have begun, the part of it which I have 
recited is placed in the past and extends along my memory. Thus, 
the process of this mental activity of mine is divided between 
memory, in reference to what I have recited; expectation, in 
reference to what I am going to recite ; and the present, my activity 
of attention wherein what was future becomes past. The more 
often this is done, the more the decrease or shortening of expecta- 
tion increases or fills memory, until the whole expectation is 
exhausted and the whole process passes again into memory. And 
what occurs with the whole Psalm occurs with each part of it and 
with each syllable. The same occurs throughout the larger 
activity, of which the recitation of the Psalm has been only a 
fragment ; the same occurs throughout the whole hfe o£ man, of 
which all human actions are parts ; the same occurs throughout 
all the ages of mankind, of which all the hves of men are parts.' ^^ 

This is the doctrine of the subjectivity of time. Here we can 
only point out the defmite conception of time on which it rests. 


Time is no more and no less than a succession of events, except in our 
direct apprehension of the present, where there is more than mere 
succession — there is duration, involving a unique subjective 
activity of apprehension. In our experience, time, understood 
as a succession, is due to the action of a supra-temporal or Eternal 
Being on our minds. The Eternity of God is a present which 
does not break up into past and future ; in the words of Boethius, 
written nearly a century after the death of Augustine, Eternity 
is * the complete and perfect possession of unlimited life all at 
once {tota simid), grasping the infinity of moving time as present '. 

In view of the theory of the subjectivity of time, it must be 
remembered that Augustine did not hold the subjectivity of 
space. Space is objective in reference to our minds, and this is the 
basis of his distinction bet'A^een body and soul. No spatial quah- 
ties can be predicted of the soul. The soul (including what we 
mean by mind) can form ideas of spatial qualities, but these ideas 
are not themselves spatial or objects of space-perception. Man 
therefore is a natural duality — body and soul. The connection 
between two such different natures is beyond our comprehension ; 
but although corporeal matter is essentially spatial and the soul 
cannot be spatial, ' yet the soul, having its body, does not consti- 
tute two beings but one man or woman '. The instrumental 
theory of the relation between soul and body is fundamental in 
the philosophy of Augustine, and he states its meaning several 
times ; for example, ' Man is a rational soul, using {utens) a mortal 
and earthly body.' ^^ Even in an act of sense-perception, the 
mind is not passive in relation to the body ; it is active, in attending 
to a subjective process aroused by an organic change. 

The doctrine of the creation of the world, as set forth by Augus- 
tine, is of great interest. It seems evident that he had worked out 
a comprehensive theory of the order of creation derived in part 
from his own theory of the subjectivity of time, in part from his 
acquaintance with the AristoteUan doctrine of ' matter ' and 
' form ', and based on an original interpretation of the bibhcal 
narrative. This comprehensive theory he expounded in three 
important works (important from the point of view of the Augus- 
tinian philosophy). These are known by their Latin titles : Dc 


Genesi contra Manicheos, De Genesi ad Litteram, and a shorter 
version of the latter, De Genesi ad Litteram, opus imperfectum. We 
are here concerned only with the cardinal principles of the doc- 
trine ; there are details which present difficulties of interpretation.^^ 

God Himself is an eternal Being and not subject to any kind of 
temporal succession. This imphes that creation, that is, the direct 
immediate divine act of creation, is not spread out into a succession 
of ' days '. The world and all things in it were created ' all at 
once '. Human apprehension of the creative act, or rather, the 
revelation of it in terms of our human limitations, yields the six 
* days ' of the Mosaic narrative : ' the divine act {ipsa dispositio) 
could not itself be consistently viewed by minds such as ours ; it 
is therefore related in a form in which it might have been seen by 
a Hmited human vision '. Moreover, the succession of events in 
the world is not one of temporal succession : it is one of causal 
relations [non intervallis temporum sed connexione causarum) ; and 
the divine ' rest ' on the seventh * day ' means that the original 
divine creative act ceased, but there remained an immanent divine 
activity pervading creation. 

Augustine had become acquainted with the AristoteHan theory 
of * form ' and ' matter ' as constituent factors of the structure of 
the universe. Aristotle, as a scientifically trained physician, 
found the most convenient illustrations in the world of hfe, in 
things that grow. The constituent tissues of an oak tree, for 
example, or the chemical elements of which these tissues are built 
up, are of the same kind as those of the thorn tree : these are the 
' matter ', but in the ' matter ' there is a law of growth such that 
the acorn becomes not a thorn but an oak : this is the ' form '. 
Its growth may fail for various reasons ; but by no interference 
can it be made to grow into a tree of a different species. In 
effect, Augustine adapts the bibhcal doctrine of Creation to 
this theory. God created the elements of the world in a fused 
or nebulous condition. This was the primeval * matter ' — not 
absolutely formless : indeed, absolutely formless matter, in the 
strict sense of the words, could not exist. Even matter, in its 
nebulous condition [uhi nebulosa species apparet) is not utterly 
devoid of ' form '. It follows, then, that the greater number of 


beings existed potentially, as ' real possibilities ', in their created 
natural causes, created by God in a kind of fusion of elements 
which could develop and appear only when fitting circumstances 
were reaHsed [acceptis opportimitatibus prodeunt). The whole 
process of the natural world from its primitive conditions is 
compared to a small seed becoming a tree : ' just as in the seed 
there is, invisible, all that after produces the hfe of the tree, so the 
world contains in itself all that is going to be manifested later : not 
only the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars, . . . but all other 
beings which the world has produced potentialiter et causaliter '. 
These latent energies were destined to develop during the six 
' days ', and are destined to develop during the remaining ages of 
the world.^^ 

Turning again to the bibHcal narrative, we find that Augustine 
is prepared to appeal freely to allegorical or figurative interpreta- 
tion. The ' matter ', with its ' forms ' or laws of development 
latent within it, is called ' the heavens and the earth ' not because it 
actually and already was the heavens and the earth but because it 
was destined to become so. This conception is appHed to the 
whole range of animate and inanimate being. The energies 
implanted in Nature have formed not only the egg, or the seed, 
but the Hving creatures which have brought forth the egg, or the 
seed. Above all, Augustine has no hesitation in applying this 
conception to the origin of the first human pair. How did Adam 
and Eve exist at the beginning? ' I answer, they existed potenti- 
ally [seminaliter] ', through the productive power immanent in 
Nature. Their appearance as formed and visible beings took 
place ' when the time came '. It is vital to an understanding of 
the Augustinian conception of Creation to bear in mind that, in 
his beUef, the whole productive process of the immanent powers 
of Nature would be impossible without the constant concurrence 
of the Deity, which emerged in special ways at particular times : 
and one of the greatest of these was when the first man, already a 
living being, became a Hving soul. 

The question was raised, many years ago : Was Augustine an 
evolutionist, in the modem sense of the term, in reference to the 
' origin of species ' ? Such a theory was not possible for Augus- 


tine, any more than it had been for Aristotle. The ' fixity of 
species ' was not questioned. All the elements of this world have 
their quahties and possibihties Hmited by the laws of their struc- 
ture — by their specific ' forms ' immanent in their ' matter '. 
This is entirely in the spirit of Aristotle. Augustine raises the 
question of the extent of man's power to change material bodies, 
and he observes that it is an extensive power. But there is 
always a hmit. The real possibihties of every existing thing 
depend on the ' law of its formation ', and this, in turn, depends 
on ' the immanent power of the Creator '.^■'' 

The reference to genuine astronomical knowledge, which 
Augustine made in criticising Manicheism, lends interest to his 
references to astrology. On the whole, it appears that he beheved 
that the stars did influence human affairs. This behef was too 
ancient and deeply-rooted to be rejected at that time : but he is 
greatly concerned to discredit all behefs which assumed that the 
stars influence, as it were mechanically, the destinies of individual 
men. Very interesting, also, is his distinction between ' lawful ' 
and ' unlawful ' medical art. ' It is one thing to say, If you drink 
the juice of this herb, your pain will be reheved ; it is quite 
another thing to say. If you hang this herb from your neck, your 
pain will be reheved ; though even this is lawful if done without 
incantations or superstitious ceremonies, because, if it acts, it acts 
by a natural virtue.' 

Beyond all this, the study of external Nature is of value only so 
far as it leads to the knowledge of God : ' Be not troubled if you 
cannot understand the courses of the stars, or the number of 
bodies in the heavens or the earth. Behold the beauty of the 
earth, and praise the Wisdom of the Creator : behold what He 
has made, and praise Him who made it, and love Him who made 
it, for you also He made in His own image.' The holy angels 
find the knowledge of corporeal things to be insignificant in face 
of the saving knowledge of the incorporeal and immutable God ; 
but they imderstand temporal and transient things far more 
deeply, because they behold the original causes of all these in the 
Ideas of the eternal Wisdom of God who made them.^^ In the 
end, it remains true that for Augustine the only absolutely worthy 


objects of knowledge are God and the Soul. If we use the term 
' mysticism ' as the general name for a rehgious experience in 
which the feeling of God is at its greatest intensity,^' we must 
recognise that there is a strong strain of mysticism which is vital to 
his rehgious thought, and that his interpretation of it was deeply 
influenced, sometimes even in his actual words, by his study of 
Plotinus. ' I beheld with the eye of my soul, such as it was, the 
Light Unchangeable, above my mind, above my soul; not the 
ordinary hght of day, which all flesh may behold, nor even a 
greater light of the same kind : and not above my soul as the 
heavens are above the earth, but above my soul because It made 
me, and I below It, because I was made by It. He who knows the 
Truth, knows what that Light is, and he who knows It, knows 
Eternity. O Truth, who art Eternity — and Love, who art 
Truth — and Eternity, who art Love ! I saw myself to be far 
away from Thee, as though I heard Thy voice from on high, say- 
ing, I am the food of grown men : grow, and thou shalt feed 
upon Me : nor shalt thou change Me, like the food of thy body, 
into thyself, but thyself shall be changed into Me. . . . Yet soon I 
was borne down again by my own weight, the habits of my body 
and mind, only there dwelt with me a remembrance of Thee, and 
I did not doubt that there is One to whom I might cleave. . . . 
Then I considered, whence it was that I was able to wonder at the 
beauty of things in the heavens and the earth, and whence it was 
that I was able to judge rightly about changeable things, and say, 
This ought to be so, and this not : considering, I say, whence it 
was that I so judged, I found the unchangeable Eternity of Truth 
above my changeable mind. Thus, by degrees, I passed from the 
body to the mind, which works through the bodily senses : and 
thence to its inner capacity to which the bodily senses represent 
outward things : and thence to its reasoning capacity, to which 
what is received from the senses is referred to be judged : wliich, 
finding itself also a changeable thing, became strong to the under- 
standing of itself, and drew away my thoughts from the power of 
habit, that so it might find what the Light was, by which itself did 
see. Then, it beo;an to know the Unchano-cable, which unless it 
had in some way already known, it could not have desired above 


the changing world. And thus, as in the flash of one trembhng 
glance, it beheld that which truly is. . . . And yet, I could not fix my 
gaze thereon : I was thrown back again upon my customary 
habits, bearing with me only a wistful memory thereof.' But it 
was a memory that did not die. 



The doctrine of the early Fathers iii reference to the nature of 
man was based on their actual experience of the world around 
them, interpreted in the light of their owoi moral and rehgious 
experience, and on the bibhcal doctrine of man, in which the 
narrative of the Fall inevitably assumed supreme importance. 
But when this narrative is read as it is written, without reference 
to doctrines and theories long afterwards built upon it, the follow- 
ing facts are clear. There is not a word suggesting the later 
theory of original righteousness or perfection, although the 
original state of ' our first parents ' is not represented as one of 
non-moral innocence. They are aware of the duty of a reasonable 
amount of work in the garden, and of abstaining from the 
' forbidden fruit ' ; but their experience is Hmited by the primitive 
character of their surroundings. There is not any suggestion of a 
moral corruption or tendency to evil transmitted by the first man 
to his descendants. The results of his disobedience are of the 
nature of punishment : for the man, a hfe of hardship, struggle, 
and toil to ' make a Hving ', and for the woman, the pain of child- 
birth. The fourth chapter draws a picture of the evils resulting 
from knowledge and invention : Lamech uses the newly-forged 
weapon to exact a fierce vengeance for a small injury. But there 
is no suggestion of an inherited taint or tendency to evil. The 
account in the fifth chapter, of the long lives of the descendants of 
Adam, rather suggests the contrary. The statements in the sixth 
chapter suggest a ' Fall ' of an entirely different kind. The 
traditional doctrine of Original Sin ' was not liistorically derived 
from the Fall-story, and cannot be so derived. It must have had a 
far deeper root in experience. The inner experience of human 
evil, and the actual condition of the contemporary world, and the 
plain statement in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis that 



there actually had been a first-created human pair, naturally led to 
the behef that there had been a. first sin; and the Fall-story was 
interpreted in the light of that behef. Paul was convinced that 
Adam's disobedience communicated bodily death and a tendency 
to evil in the human race, but he knows nothing of any theory of 
original perfection or o( inherited guilt. There is, however, among 
the Greek Apologists, a significant variation in the idea of man's 
original condition. We do not fmd it in Justin, but it is stated 
defmitely by Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch in the last quarter 
of the second century : ' Man was created in an intermediate 
condition, neither wholly mortal nor wholly immortal, but cap- 
able of either ', being endowed with power over himself through 
his freedom of choice. In Paradise, God gave him a ' starting- 
point ' for growth in order that by growing, and at length becom- 
ing perfect, he might rise to eternal hfe. Theophilus affirms with 
emphasis that the fruit of the ' Tree of Knowledge ' was good : 
' for knowledge, the fruit of the tree, is good when used by those 
who are fitted for it '. The fatal sin was not in acquiring knov/- 
ledge but in disobedience. Adam was still, so to speak, a child, 
incapable of using knowledge worthily. God cast him out of 
Paradise, ' not to suffer him to remain in sin for ever, but in order 
that within an appointed time he might be reclaimed '. The 
final reward for those who obey, and the final punishment for 
those who persistently refuse to obey, is reserved for the resur- 

When we turn to Irenasus, we fmd that the keynote of all that 
he says about the Fall is this. The good which is the result of 
free voluntary choice is more worthy than the good which is a 
merely natural growth, hke that of a plant. ' What merit is due 
to those who have not exerted themselves for what is good, or 
who have not won it through struggle? ' He does not question 
the historical existence of a ' first man ' ; but in a passage preserved 
by a seventh-century writer Irenseus takes the whole episode of 
the serpent and the fruit in a purely allegorical sense. He was con- 
vinced of the impossibility of such a creature being capable of 
understanding and speech and becoming the embodiment of an 
evil demon. UnfaUen man was an imperfect and undeveloped 


creature, yielding to a powerful and cunning enemy. Why was 
man not made perfect at the beginning ? ' God had pow^er at the 
beginning to grsLnt perfection to men ; but, as newly-created beings, 
men could not have received it, or having received it, could not 
have grasped it, or having grasped it, could not have kept it.' 
Human hfe since the Fall has been a process of education. God 
does not compel His creatures : ' even in the exercise of his faith, 
as well as in his conduct, God has allowed man to be free '. The 
Fall was indeed an ahenation from God; but God turned it to 
serve His purposes, ' in order that man, hving through experience 
and acquiring through trial the knowledge of what is good and 
what is evil might learn to know himself, his weakness and 
mortahty, and learn the purposes of God '. The knowledge of 
good and of evil is needed to complete human experience : 
through the infinite patience of God man learnt to know the good 
of obedience and the evil of disobedience, so that by experience of 
both he might with judgment choose the better way. How 
could he be trained in what is good, unless he had known its 
contrary ? ^ 

The conception which we have outlined is carefully expounded 
by Irenseus; but it is crossed by another, which has its roots in 
the idea of ' Recapitulation '. Irenasus apphes this exphcitly to 
Christ as Redeemer. The idea was suggested to him by the 
reference to the exalted Christ in the Epistle to the Ephesians 
(i and ii) . The idea of ' Recapitulation ' imphes that Christ — the 
Ideal Man, the ' second Adam ' — ' summed up ' in himself the 
completeness and perfection of human nature. Hamack pointed 
out that when Irenasus proceeds to apply the idea of * Recapitula- 
tion ' to the ' first Adam ', he is attributing to Adam in Paradise 
capacities in extent and range far in excess of those possessed by 
the imperfect being of whom he had spoken elsewhere ; and in 
this connection he uses expressions suggesting the theors' of an 
identity of the human race with Adam, who ' summed up ' in 
himself all the possibihties of good and evil wliich have appeared in 
his descendants ; and therefore when u>e refused to obey God and 
trust in His Word, . . . ti'e offended in the first man. But it is 
impossible to ascribe to Irenasus a conception of the Fall as the 



collective act of the whole human race, in the sense in which that 
doctrine was developed by Augustine two centuries later. The 
statements made by Irenaeus are forcible but metaphorical expres- 
sions for one of his fundamental convictions, the unity of the 
human race. Man, in the divine purpose concerning him, was 
designed to become perfect ; but the Fall brought him under the 
power of natural death. On the other hand, if man, created for 
hfe, had been wholly and for ever given over to evil, God would 
have been defeated, and Satan would have been fmally victorious. 
The purpose of the Incarnation was to bring God nearer to us, in 
the form of a real human Hfe, and to bring man nearer to God. 
In the Ten Commandments given to Moses, to be handed on to 
the people, Irenaeus sees ' steps to the entrance into Hfe ', Hke a 
safe place which men may hold so that they do not faU back 
into evil. Their purpose was to bring men into friendship 
with God and relations of justice with one another; and Christ 
came to deepen and extend these relations and make them 

When we turn to TertuUian, we fmd a Christian materiaHst. 
He was deeply influenced by Stoic thought; and like the later 
Roman Stoics, Seneca in particular, he could not conceive any- 
thing existing which was not ' body '. In his book On the Soul 
[De Anima) his view of the relation of the human body to the 
human soul is set forth at length. They are distinct existences ; 
he never questioned the duaHty of body and soul. But though 
the soul is corporeal (otherwise he could not conceive how it 
could act on the body), it is of a finer and more ' subtle ' kind of 
* matter '. It possesses form (by this, TertuUian means spatial 
form) ; it is capable of existing apart from the body ; it has a 
capacity for movement, activity, and the formation of ideas ; in 
its present Hfe it is acted upon through the body by external 
conditions; it has a Hmited insight into the future; and, apart 
from the body, it is invisible save to a few specially endowed 
individuals. With regard to the origin of the soul, TertuUian 
pours contemptuous criticism upon what he supposed to be the 
Platonic doctrine of re-incarnation ; and he rejects the assumption 
that the soul was speciaUy created and associated with the body. 


He concludes that in its entire nature it proceeds from the parents. 
Hence, its sinfulness ; but it has ' seeds of Good '.'* 

There is no evidence that Tertullian ever held the doctrine of 
originzl guilt (the liability of all mankind to punishment for the sin 
of the first man) ; but he was convinced that original sin was an 
inherited bias, ' an antecedent and natural evil, springing from 
our corrupt origin '. Neither does he teach the total depravity of 
human nature : ' There is a portion of good in the soul : ... it can 
be obscured, because it is not God; but it cannot be destroyed, 
because it is from God. The good in the soul, being weighed 
down by evil, is either not seen at all, its Hght being wholly hid- 
den ; or, it is seen only as a ray of Hght is seen, struggling through. 
Therefore, some men are very good, and some are very bad ; but 
the souls of all belong to the same natural class {genus).' 

When we turn from Africa to Alexcindria, we pass to a dis- 
tinctively Hellenistic outlook on Hfe. It is useless to ask whether 
Clement or whether Origen ' represents ' that outlook more 
characteristically. Clement's temperamental optimism hindered 
his vision of the darker reahties of the world. He recognises 
original sin only in a Hmited and quaHfied sense. To Clement, 
sin was a hindrance and a faihng rather than a spiritual tragedy. 
Origen's convictions went deeper and covered a wider range. 

Origen accepts, partly on scriptural grounds, the existence of 
unseen agencies hostile to God. All rational beings were created 
with the power of free choice in their actions, so that the different 
classes or characters of the ' angels ', ' and of ourselves, who are 
called rational animals ', have arisen through the use or abuse of 
free-will. The downward way begins with self-will in disregard 
of God's will. Thus, Origen is convinced of the reaHtv' of an 
unseen world, and of spiritual hosts of evil. He is further con- 
vinced that the doctrine of degrees is of universal import in the 
nature of all things below Deity : ' The cause of the diversitv^ of 
rational beings is not in any arbitrary act of the Creator but in 
their own actions, which reveal varying degrees of spiritual 
strength or the reverse. Among all rational creatures there are 
none that are incapable of good or of evil : but it does not follow 
that every nature has become evil, nor, on the other hand, does 


it follow that every being has become good.' But this is not the 
last word. God made rational beings for an end, and He has 
provided that they shall, by whatever severity of discipline, attain 
to it. For human beings, embodiment in this hfe is a stage in 
that discipline : man is made for a spiritual destiny, and he cannot 
fmd his lasting rest elsewhere.^ 

In his doctrine of the Resurrection, Origen keeps closely to the 
language of Paul. He repudiates with indignation the notion 
that the bodies of the dead are to be ' raised ' and to exist for ever. 
In the fragments of his tract on The Resurrection, in two important 
sections of his work on First Principles, and in several sections of 
his reply to Celsus, Origen makes his own behef clear, and (per- 
haps with too favourable a judgment) impHes that it was held 
by thoughtful Christians in general. Celsus beHeved that the 
literahsm which prevailed in the popular view of the Resurrection 
was the essence of Christian teaching on the subject. Origen 
rephes : ' Neither we, nor the words of Scripture, affirm that 
those who have died rise from the earth with the same bodies, 
without any change to a new condition.' It is in this connection 
that he places decisive emphasis on the saying that what is ' sown ' 
is not ' the body that shall be '. He is, of course, aware that 
' sown ' is a metaphor : ' In the case of those who are, as it were, 
sown in dying, each one passes on with a body out of that which 
had been sown — a body which God has given him, according to 
his deserts.' What survives is the real and whole personahty 
{ratio suhstantialis corporis) carrying with it the accumulated results 
of what the man has made of himself and his capacities during this 
Hfe. Origen's position is accurately stated by Westcott : ' For 
Origen, the Resurrection is not the reproduction of any particular 
organism, but the preservation of complete identity of person — 
an identity maintained under new conditions, which he presents 
under the apostoHc figure of the growth of the plant from the 
seed. The seed is committed to the earth and perishes ; and yet 
the vital power which it contains gathers a new form answering 
to its proper nature. Judgment is no Hmited and local act, but 
the unimpeded execution of the absolute divine Law, by which 
the man is made to feel what he is, and what he has become, and 


to bear the inevitable consequences of the revelation. Punish- 
ment is no act of divine vengeance, but a just severity by which the 
soul is placed at last in the way of justification : and blessedness is 
no sensuous joy or indolent repose, but a growing insight into the 
mysteries of the divine Counsels.' ^ 

Although Origen held a lofty ideal of man's final destiny, his 
was no visionary view of men in their actual condition. The 
severe asceticism of his personal Ufe, and his ancestry among the 
Copts of Egypt, made any visionary ideas scarcely possible ; while 
at the same time, any tendencies towards fanaticism perished under 
the influence of his studies at the Museum or University of Alex- 
andria. For Origen, this world was made to be a fitting place for 
the discipline and purification of a being such as man. Celsus 
had compared Jews and Christians who led sinful lives to ' worms ' 
and other such creatures. If, said Origen, he really beHeved this, 
he should, of course, have said the same of sinful men belonging to 
other races and other reHgions : ' But it belongs to man's rational 
nature to be capable of virtue; and beings who have within 
themselves the real possibiHty of virtue, which they cannot 
entirely destroy, are not to be described as " worms ". . . . Human 
reason, having its origin in the Reason which is divine, makes it 
impossible for any rational creature to be wholly ahen to God. 
. . . Human nature, formed for good, is not to be vilified because 
it sins. . . . Life is a training ground, a gymnasium, where those 
may exercise themselves who are wilhng to contend according to 
the rules, for the achievement and possession of true good.' 
Origen might have added that in the training ground of Hfe, the 
' rules ' are made by God : this is the meaning of his illustration, 
from one of the most famihar sights in the ancient world.'' 

In Origen's work on First Principles there is no doctrine of 
* Original Sin ' in the later meaning of the words. As we have 
seen, he allegorises the narrative of the Temptation and Fall, 
reading into it the theory of a pre-natal Fall of individual souls ; 
but in some of his later Commentaries there is a difference of 
emphasis. Harnack supposed that during the period o£ Origen's 
work in Csesarea he became acquainted with the custom of infant 
Baptism, and the supernatural efficacy attached to it, and was tlius 


led to reconsider his earlier teaching, and to find in human nature 
an inherited sinfuhiess involving guilt. This interpretation is 
supported by statements in his Commentary on the Book of 
Leviticus. We find it difficult to beheve that Origen trans- 
formed one of his fundamental ideas because of a prevalent inter- 
pretation of the rite of infant Baptism ; and the so-called ' earher ' 
doctrine actually finds expression in the ' Caesarean ' period. For 
example, ' Man has a spiritual capacity by v^hich he can learn to 
believe in spiritual things, just as he can learn to beheve in material 
things through the evidence of his senses.' ^ That is to say, even 
apart from the gifts of Grace, God has not left man w^ithout 
natural spiritual knowledge, through a natural \zw which is a Law 
of God. His actual references are to the well-known statements in 
the second chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. The general 
doctrine is a Christian version of the later Stoic idea to which we 
have previously referred. Origen adds that the consciousness of 
the law of Nature comes with the growth of reason, and ' he 
who faithfully follows its precepts will not lose his reward '. 

It is strange that some able students of Origen seem to forget 
the basic importance of the doctrine o£ pre-existence in Origen's 
view of man's nature and destiny. Origen took the idea of pre- 
existence definitely and seriously. Every individual is born with 
an inherited burden of failures and sins, not inherited from Adam 
but from his own previous hfe. We suggest that what took place 
in Origen's thinking on the subject was this : he found in the idea 
of inherited sinfiilness a truth which he had not sufficiently 
emphasised before, but which, he beHeved, can be accounted for 
if each individual had gone through a previous hfe (or even 
previous hves). There is indeed an ethical paradox in assuming 
that part, at least, of the hardships and sufferings of this hfe are a 
disciplinary expiation for sins committed in a previous Hfe of 
which the individual has no recollection ; but even this paradox is 
qualified. The responsibihty which his moral freedom throws on 
every man is hmited, though it is not removed, by the Grace of 
God : ' No noble deed has ever been done except by the divine 
Word visiting the souls of men who were able, even for a short 
time, to receive his inspiration.' 


In chronological order, after Origen, among the greater 
thinkers moulding the mind of the Church, stands out the unique 
figure of Athanasius of Alexandria ; but in his teaching, and in- 
deed throughout the Arian controversy, the question of man's 
nature and destiny is not only inseparable from but is actually part 
of the doctrine of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. For the 
present, therefore, we turn to the Cappadocian Fathers. 

Great as was their regard for Origen, the Cappadocian Fathers 
agree in rejecting any theory of the actual pre-existence of the 
individual human soul. We say ' actual pre-existence ', for 
Gregory of Nyssa affirms that ' in the vast range of God's fore- 
knowledge, all the fullness of human nature had pre-existence '. 
In their interpretation of the Fall-story they differ in reference to 
allegorism. Gregory of Nyssa was prepared to carry it farther 
than Basil. Apart from this, they are in agreement over the 
doctrine of the Fall, and its results : in particular, the Fall weakened 
but did not destroy human freedom. 

Gregory of Nyssa probes the problem of the origin of the 
human soul as far as he can. His scientific knowledge taught him 
the closeness of the connection between mind and body, which he 
interpreted in the hght of the conception o£ growth, taken not as a 
mere metaphor : ' Just as in wheat or any other seed the \vhole 
form of the future plant is potentially present, not as pre-existing 
but as being manifested in a certain order from the potentiaht}' 
resident in the seed — in wheat, the leaves, the stalk, the joints, the 
grain^ — so we beheve that the human germ contains the potentiahtv' 
of its nature implanted in the first beginnings of its distinct exis- 
tence, and that its capacities are manifested in a certain natural order 
as it approaches maturity : so that soul and body begin together, 
with their real source in the creative Will of God, but coming into 
existence in the moment of generation. And as no one could 
perceive these capacities in the human germ before they began 
to take form in the articulation of the bodily organs, so it is 
impossible to discern in the human germ the capacities of the soul 
before these become apparent ; and we may beheve that when no 
visible signs of mental life are apparent, the potentiahties of the 
soul are none the less present, and that the soul manifests its 


natural qualities and activities as it grows along with the growth 
of the body.' ^ This doctrine has been described as materialistic. 
It is nothing of the kind. Gregory quite evidently means that 
from its first beginnings the human soul is embodied; but as it 
grows it develops capacities incomparably wider and deeper in 
range than those of the body. The conviction of the Alexandrian 
Fathers — that man is made to share in the divine nature — is 
firmly maintained ; it is for tliis supreme purpose that the work of 
creation expressed the divine Love. But for this, it was needful 
that there should be in man a capacity akin to the nature of God : 
the divine Good, for which we are made, is not ahen to our own 
nature. None the less, man is a fallen creature. The Fall was 
the first act of voluntary disobedience on the part of the first man, 
not carrying with it an entire destruction of human freedom, but 
plunging man into a condition of mortahty and sin. Therefore 
God, through His Son, from His essential being, entered into 
human hfe, becoming incarnate in a human body as Jesus Christ, 
who Hved and suffered and rose again, in order that through him 
the resurrection-hfe should extend to the whole human race.^^ 

The theory of inherited ^m//^ (HabiHty to punishment for the sin 
of the first man) is repudiated. This is seen clearly in Gregory's 
remarkable tract on The Untimely Deaths of Infants. He is con- 
vinced that the souls of infants who have died before the dawn of 
reason in their minds are not doomed. Their lot hereafter is pro- 
portioned to their capacities, though inferior to that for which 
the ' saints ' are destined. But it is a real ' happiness ', and 
Gregory beUeves it is possible that such infants may grow into 
knowledge of God, and at length attain to fiill moral and spiritual 
maturity. God does not condemn even hardened sinners, much 
less iimocent babes, to eternal torment. There will be a purga- 
tory, of greater or less duration, ending in the universal restora- 
tion in which Gregory had learnt from Origen to beheve : ' If 
God will be all in all, it is impossible that evil will endure for ever.' 

Gregory of Nyssa died in 394; and in the next generation a 
doctrine about the fiiture which invites comparison with that of 
Gregory was urged by the ablest and most influential representa- 
tive of what is called ' the School of Antioch '. This was 


Theodore, Bishop of Mopsuestia, who died about 428. ' The 
question is, what will be the destiny of children and babes who 
quit this world without having committed any evil deeds or done 
any good deeds ? ' Theodore relates the question at once to the 
efficacy of Baptism, about which he took a high sacramental view : 
' No Christian behever leaves his child without the sacrament of 
Baptism, unless the child has been taken from him by force. . . . 
Babes who are not baptised through the neghgence of their 
parents go to heaven because it was not their own fault that they 
had not participated in the sacrament of Baptism ; but their place 
in heaven is not of so high a rank [literally ' not so honourable '] 
as those who have the mark of the holy sacrament. ... As to 
children of unbehevers, who leave the world in their childhood 
without having done any good or evil deeds, it is evident that they 
have a place in heaven because they have committed no sins ; but 
their rank is not so high as that of the baptised : they are in an 
intermediate state. But they will not be excluded from heaven, 
and will not be left in torment; they have not done any evil. 
Thus the Grace of God is in no respect unjust to them.' ^^ It is 
noteworthy that on the general question of punishment after 
death, Theodore, in his surviving writings, avoids any exphcit 
statement of behef that the punishment is ' everlasting '. 

Like most of the representatives of ' the School of Antioch ', 
Theodore was only shghtly interested in the theological and 
philosophical questions arising out of the idea of creation as a 
divine act or series of acts. He appears to have been satisfied 
with the idea of creation ' out of nothing ' or ' from nothing ', 
and with the absolute antithesis of the ' created ' and the ' un- 
created '. His fundamental conviction was that as God is One, so 
His creation is One. The universe (that is, the universe as con- 
ceived at that time) was a single whole, but involving within it a 
duality : in part visible (material) and in part invisible (spiritual). 
Man therefore is a composite being, akin on the one side to the 
world of sense-perception and on the other side akin to the 
spiritual world. He was designed by the Creator to be a bond of 
communication between the two realms of existence. To man, 
as the culminating work of the divine creative Power, the whole 



'creation is directed; for man, all things are made. Through 
man, creation gave to God the glory which was His due, and man 
was given capacities for the fulfilment of this end. In his original 
condition, man was endowed with the capacity for free self- 
determination, involving the possibihty of temptation and sur- 
render to evil, but also of moral growth. The Fall did not intro- 
duce sin into the world ; it converted the habihty to death into an 
actual fact, and made sin into a dispositional factor in the human 

On the other hand, sin is not a nature ; Theodore finds no place 
for ' original sin ' in that sense. The consequences of man's 
liabihty to bodily death are to involve him in constant infirmities, 
to fix his attention on the visible order of things, and to give play 
to his passions. Thus the tendency to moral evil in the human 
race is strengthened. Hence it has been said that in Theodore's 
behef, ' Mortahty rather than sin is the great enemy of man.' 
But MfQ are not abandoned creatures. Inclined to evil, we are 
none the less endowed with a consciousness of Good. So long 
as this consciousness could express itself in nothing more than a 
complex of vague instinctive impulses, feelings of dissatisfaction, 
and obscure effort, it could only result in a nature without achieve- 
ment and aspirations without end. But it is not so. We are still 
rational beings, and the deeper desires of the soul rouse our reason 
to compare our present state with what the Incarnation has 
revealed. Even in our present state we can discern the promise 
and potency of the will to follow on the way that leads to union 
with Christ. This lends special interest to Theodore's interpreta- 
tion of the narratives of Creation and Paradise in the Book of 
Genesis. We notice, in passing, the way in which he deals with 
the difficulty which Origen had pointed out — the creation of 
Hght before the creation of the sun, moon, and stars. The 
* separation of hght from darkness ' was not the separation of 
night from day, in the later reference : it was the separation of the 
essential nature of hght from the essential nature of darkness. 
This prepared the way for the night-day sequence wliich followed. 
The essential part of Theodore's exposition of the creation- 
narrative has its centre in what he understands by ' the likeness of 


God '. The infinity of God is absolute; but He gave to man a 
spiritual faculty which, within its natural limits, is akin to His own. 
Hence the human mind can pass in thought from farthest East to 
farthest West — from any point of space to any other, without 
transgressing its natural finitude. He has given to man a capacity 
for judging, reasoning, understanding, and through these for 
organisation and government. But this is not all. He has given 
to man a capacity reserved for man alone — of being to a hmited 
but a real extent a creator : not a creator of new ' natures ' or 
' essences ', this is possible only for God, but a creator by means of 
invention and construction, and ' ordering objects great and 
small '. 

Theodore's understanding of the details of the narrative con- 
tained in the second chapter of the Book of Genesis is a curious 
combination of hteralism and allegorism. The making of man 
from the dust of the earth is understood to mean that bodily man 
is from the material of which the earth is composed ; the ' four 
elements ' enter into and form his physical organism, and the 
divine breathing into his body of ' the breath of Hfe ' is to be 
literally understood, for only thus could man become a living 
being. The ' tree of knowledge ' did not by its own nature as a 
tree confer any knowledge of good and evil ; this was given by 
divine command. Man's approach to the tree, and the attraction 
which he felt for its fruit, gave him the idea of obedience and dis- 
obedience, according to his freedom of choice. The ' serpent ' 
is named by Moses as the instrument used by Satan, because at that 
time man had no idea of invisible beings other than God Himself. 
The ' flaming sword ' means that Paradise was lost for ever, so far 
as this world is concerned. Evidently this is a piece of pure 
allegorism; but it appears that Theodore never doubted the 
actual existence of the supernatural being with the sword ' flashing 
in every direction '. 

Modern scholarship has shown that the charge of Pelagianism ' 
brought against Theodore has no foundation in any of his surviv- 
ing writings. There is reason to maintain that the violently 
biased declarations made against him at the ' Fifth General 
Council ' (Constantinople, 553) were prompted by pohtical 


intrigue and theological misrepresentation and misunderstanding. 
There is no evidence that he had any direct intercourse with 
Augustine; but he befriended some exiled 'Pelagians', and 
wrote denying that sin is a ' nature ', in the sense in which that 
doctrine was maintained by his great contemporary in the West,^^ 

His contemporaries in the East regarded him as the foremost 
defender of Christian truth ; and for his writings on the inter- 
pretation of the Scriptures he came to be known in the East as 
' The Interpreter '. 

From the East we turn to the West, and to the work of that 
great man who from his obscure seaport on the North African 
coast swayed the whole western Church as if he had been its 
theological dictator. The range of Augustine's writings, the 
penetrating character of his thought, and the impossibihty of deriv- 
ing from liim a system of Christian doctrine necessitate special 
care in order to avoid placing undue emphasis on certain state- 
ments as compared with others ; but the risk, such as it is, of doing 
this is neghgible in reference to his doctrines of Grace and Pre- 
destination, which are repeated and discussed in the many con- 
troversies in which he was compelled to engage. We may take 
as a ' text ' a passage from the thirteenth Book of Augustine's 
greatest work The City of God. ' God created man as he ought 
to be {rectum) ; but man, being of his own wiU depraved, and 
justly condemned, begat depraved and condemned offspring : for 
we all were in that one man, since we all were that one man 
[omnes fuimus ilk unus). Already the seminal nature was there 
from which we were propagated. Thus, being vitiated by sin, 
and justly condemned, man could not be bom of man in any other 
state; and thus, from the evil use of free-will, which with its chain 
of miseries carries the whole human race from its depraved origin 
as from a corrupt root, man moves on to the destruction of the 
second death, which has no ending : only those being elected for 
salvation who are freed by the Grace of God,' With this pro- 
found anthropological pessimism- — confirmed by all that he saw 
of the world around him — the soul of Augustine was saturated. 

The paradox of inherited ^mi7^ (habihty to deserved punishment) 
sprang from an intensely reahstic conception of the connection of 


the whole human race with the first man : ' We all were that one 
man.' Adam included in himself the actuaHties of all men after 
him, Augustine saw no alternative but to accept the misunder- 
standing of Paul's words in Romans iii. 23 (compared with 
I Corinthians xv. 22) as found in the ancient Latin versions and 
perpetuated in the Vulgate : ' In Adam all have sinned ', in- 
stead of ' inasmuch as all have sinned '. The guilt of Adam was 
infmite, and therefore every man is born subject to the penalty of 
everlasting punishment. Whatever offspring has been born from 
the first man must drag through the ages the burden of sin and 
guilt, by which it is itself dragged down. Divine ' Justice ' 
demanded that no one at all should be saved; but through His 
' Mercy ' God elected in eternity and called in time certain favoured 
individuals, moving them through His Grace, through the saving 
waters of Baptism and through faith in Christ, to final salvation. 
The number of the ' elect ' is fixed, and cannot be changed. It is 
large in itself, but small in comparison with the number of the 

To ascribe this doctrine entirely to his reading of Scripture 
texts is a psychological error as serious as to ascribe it all to ' the 
logic of a fanatical Africanism '. There is, it is true, a relentless 
logic at work. Every picture, even the darkest, is drawn \\ith 
firm strokes, with its bounds clearly marked. But the roots of 
his behef in irresistible Grace were in his own experience. His 
half-Christian, half-pagan education in Carthage, his adoption of 
Manicheism as seeming to offer an explanation of the origin of 
evil, his subsequent scepticism, the moral distress of fighting 
a losing battle with his own bodily passions, left him divided 
against himself: ' It was through myself that habit had gained 
such a victory over me. I had willingly gone where I did not 
will to go. I refused, O God, to fight on Thy side, as much 
afraid of being freed from these bonds as I ought to have been 
afraid of being bound by them. I knew it was better to surrender 
to Thy Love than to yield to my own lusts, and yet these pleased 
me and held me bound. I was on the point of resolution, I all 
but did it, but I did not do it, hesitating to die to death and live to 
hfe.' There is no need to repeat the story of his experience in the 


garden in Milan, which laid the storm within him to rest. He 
beheved it was a sent massage, sent through no will of his own, to 
save him. 

The dark view of the condition of the human race which had 
penetrated the thought and feeling of Augustine, lends special 
interest to his view of the original state of man, which, as he con- 
ceived it, was a state of perfection in body, thought, and feeling. 
But the first man was endowed with the dangerous gift of freedom 
of choice in willing. He was able to defeat and actually did 
defeat the purpose of God in creating him. In his fallen state man 
cannot defeat the purposes of God : ' To will or not to will is in 
the power of the man who wills or does not will, but this does 
not defeat God or impede His purposes, ... so as to prevent Him 
from doing what He wills to do. Thus, God brought about the 
election of Saul to be king of the Israehtes solely through the wills 
of men themselves, because in His almighty Power he so moved 
the minds of men.' ^* In his laborious treatise on the Freedom of 
tlie Will, Augustine leaves only the profoundly unsatisfactory 
conclusion that we are free to do what we choose to do, but we 
are not free to choose what we ought to choose. At the beginning 
of the second Book of his Retractiones (that is, ' Revisions ') 
Augustine says : ' We laboured on behalf of human freedom, but 
the Grace of God conquered.' The result is, that there is no real 
freedom of wiU. No man can do anything that is right in the 
sight of God, until the Grace of God moves him. 

Nevertheless, Augustine was convinced that ideal freedom was 
a real possibility, the ' ideal freedom ' which is an actual condition 
of the soul, described as ' inabihty to sin ' (' non posse peccare '). 
This is not merely successful resistance to evil ; it is a condition of 
being ' unable to sin ' because every kind of evU has lost all power 
of attraction. The negative statement of it is evidently inade- 
quate. In one of his descriptions of the final blessedness of the 
redeemed Augustine says : ' The will is more truly free when it is 
set free from the transient pleasures of sinning to enjoy the lasting 
happiness of being free from sin. . . . This final freedom is all the 
more powerful because it will not have the power to sin, and this, 
by the gift of God, and not by its own imaided nature. . . . One 


who thus partakes of God has received from Him the inabihty to 

sin As the original immortahty of his nature, which Adam lost 

by sin, was the ability not to die, ... so the final freedom is 
such that the desire for freedom and righteousness will be incap- 
able of being lost.' It will exclude the possibihty of all that con- 
flicts with that supreme desire.^^ 

Augustine knew well the fearful force of the question, Why 
has not God chosen to bestow saving Grace upon all men? 
' They say, that God could turn even the evil wills of men to good, 
since He is almighty. Indeed He could. Why then did He not 
do it? Because He did not will to do it. Why did He not will 
to do it? The answer rests with Him.' Near the end of his hfe, 
Augustine was approached by two laymen from Marseilles, both 
sincere admirers of his work. Their purpose was to inform him 
of the concern which his doctrine of an absolutely unconditional 
predestination was arousing in the South of Gaul. They wrote 
saying that many Christians in that region felt serious misgivings 
over that doctrine, with its logical imphcation that none could be 
saved except by an irresistible act of divine anti-natural Grace. It 
was felt that the doctrine was closely aUied to the theory of fatal 
necessity ; and that in any case it led to recklessness on the part of 
those who beheved themselves to be ' lost ' and carelessness on the 
part of the ' elect ', since neither carelessness nor recklessness made 
any difference to their final destiny. And even if the doctrine 
were true, ' it ought not to be preached '. 

Augustine considered these difficulties very carefidly, and in 
reply he composed his last writings dealing with the question : Dc 
Praedestinatione Sanctorum and De Dono Perseverantiae (a.d. 428- 
29). In these works he made various distinctions, which may 
be summed up as an emphasis (indicated in the titles) on the 
positive side of the predestination-theory, although the negative 
side is firmly held. The Grace by wliich men are saved is a pure 
gift, given in one case, withheld in another, for reasons entirely 
beyond our comprehension. In the second of the two works 
mentioned above Augustine makes two admissions. Caution 
and discretion must be used in preaching the doctrine. In the 
case of a * general congregation ' care must be taken not to speak 


SO that they will all regard themselves as predestined to eternal 
damnation. And in the last section of the book, Augustine 
seems to express willingness to submit his doctrine of predestina- 
tion to the judgment of the Doctors of the Church '.^^ 

It can scarcely be doubted that the mission of Pelagius, and 
the resulting controversies into which Augustine was driven, 
strengthened his conviction that the whole human race, save the 
limited number elected for salvation by Grace, was eternally 
doomed. To the individual person Pelagius, Augustine usually 
refers with respect. Pelagius first becomes prominent about a.d. 
400, engaged in a kind of mission to the imperial city. The 
moral standard of the Roman Church at that time was low, chiefly 
through a century's influx of half-converted heathens ; and Pela- 
gius appears as a missionary, denouncing the sins of society, and 
inculcating a highly ethical and puritan type of reHgion, represent- 
ing the external and disciplinary factors in monasticism. But the 
essential fact about Pelagianistn as a doctrine was its insistence on 
the absolutely undetermined freedom of the human will. The 
sin of Adam injured only himself; so far as it injured others, or his 
offspring, this was only as a ' bad example '. The freedom with 
which every human being is endowed is unaffected even by 
acquired habits ; and whatever transmission of evil takes place 
from one generation to another, takes place through bad laws, 
bad customs, or bad examples. The doctrine of Pelagius, in 
reference to the will, could allow no excuses for wrong-doing — 
no appeals to natural weakness or the power of habit ; but its 
unbalanced insistence on the unhmited power of every individual's 
personal will over his actions is in flagrant conflict with actual 
experience as well as vdth scientific knowledge ; and Augustine 
found it in irreconcilable conflict with the experiences of his own 
early years. 

It is not difficult to disentangle and state clearly the radical 
assumptions on which the Pelagian theory of the freedom of the 
will rested : they may fairly be formulated as above. But in the 
resulting controversies the Pelagians used certain cardinal terms in 
an ambiguous and evasive manner, and Pelagius himself cannot be 
acquitted of responsibihty for this. They were confused in their 


Statements about the significance and need of infant Baptism ; and 
above all, they * played fast and loose ' with the idea of divine 
Grace. In consistency, Pelagius, when affirming as he did the 
necessity of Grace, could only mean that Grace makes it easier for 
men to do right, without in any way impairing their freedom of 
choice. This is diametrically opposed to the Augustinian doc- 
trine that it is impossible — without an irresistible and anti-natural 
gift of Grace — for men to do right, if by ' doing right ' we mean 
reahsing the purpose of God in creating man. The doctrine of 
Augustine is definite, as he intended it to be; but the Pelagians 
used the term ' Grace ' in a number of different ways, according 
to the particular controversies in which they were engaged. The 
resulting confusion was increased when Julian, Bishop of Eclanum 
in Campania, rose to ' take the field ' against Augustinianism. 
JuHan became the principal leader of the movement known as 
* Semi-Pelagianism '. It may equally be described as ' Semi- 
Augustinianism '. Here again the radical factors in the contro- 
versy can be disentangled and definitely stated. The primary 
assumption was that we must, in the interests of human responsi- 
bihty, affirm at all costs that nature unaided can take the first steps 
towards its own recovery. There was a period, however short, in 
the hfe of each individual, when Grace was not needed. At no 
point was it entirely irresistible; but without it men cannot 
advance into the condition of spiritual health necessary for salva- 
tion. JuUan's controversial methods were verbose, and some- 
times abusive. He was embittered by the opposition which he 
had to face, and by his exile. As a matter of conviction, he was 
repelled by the assertion that all who die unbaptised, including 
infants, are doomed to eternal damnation, and that divine Grace, 
when granted, is irresistible. ' As to the former, Juhan's moral 
sense recoiled from the terrible assertion, and he took the hne 
afterwards taken by John Stuart Mill against the Calvinism which 
Mill mistook for Christianity — holding that Augustinism was 
immoral inasmuch as it offended against our primary idea of 
Justice. And in protest against the idea of indefectible grace, he 
repudiated determinism and accused Augustine of quibbHiig about 
free-will.' ^' The only truth in this last statement made by JuHan 


points to the fact to which we have aheady called attention, 
namely, that Augustine only succeeded in showing that we are 
free to do what we choose to do, but not free to choose what we 
ought to choose. 

The controversies aroused by the propaganda of Pelagianism 
and Semi-Pelagianism, and by opposition to the extreme pre- 
destinarianism of Augustine, were becoming injurious to the hfe 
of the churches, particularly in southern Gaul. It is remarkable 
that the concihatory and statesmanlike action of one man was 
able, in effect, to bring these controversies to an end. This was 
Caesarius, Bishop of Aries. Caesarius himself was not merely 
hostile to Augustine in this matter. He understood how Augus- 
tine had been led to hold this doctrine. After some friendly 
correspondence with the Bishop of Rome, he drew up a series of 
declarations or ' canons ' which he presented to a gathering of 
Bishops assembled at Orange for the dedication of a new church 
(a.d. 529). The canons were expressed in a manner free from 
denunciations or threats of excommunication or (with one excep- 
tion) of ' anathema '. They were followed by a doctrinal 
statement affirming positively what was imphed in the negative 
statements of the canons. This may be rendered as follows : 
* According to what is written in Holy Scripture, and according 
to the declarations of the Fathers, we ought, with the help of God, 
to beheve and teach, that by the sin of the first man the free-will 
of all his descendents has been so perverted [inclinatur or ' turned 
aside '] and weakened that no man has been able to beheve in 
God or do what is good in the sight of God, unless the Grace of 
God first moves him.' Then after affirming that the patriarchs 
' and the multitude of those whose faith the Apostle praises ' did 
not inherit their faith from the perfection which was in Adam 
before the Fall but received it by the Grace of God ; and, after 
quoting from the New Testament (Phil. i. 6 and 29, Eph. ii. 8, 
I Cor. iv. 7, James i. 17, and the Fourth Gospel iii. 27), the declara- 
tion proceeds : ' All those who have been baptised can, with the 
aid and co-operation of Christ, in virtue of the Grace received in 
Baptism, achieve all that is needed for salvation if they will faith- 
fully work for it. But as for the doctrine that by the Will of God 


some are predestined to evil, if there be any who hold such a 
detestable beHef, we reject it as anathema. . . . We beheve and 
teach that in every good work the initiative is not with us in such 
a way that the Mercy of God/o//o!^'5 : (we beheve and teach) that 
before any merit on our part God first inspires in us a conscious- 
ness of the end (to which we ought to move) and of the love 
(which we ought to feel for Him), in order that we may desire 
Baptism, and after being baptised may with His aid accomplish 
what is pleasing in His sight.' 

Although the Council apparently did not quote the declaration 
made by Paul, ' Itaque . . . cum metu et trementia vestram salutetn 
operamini, Deus est enim qui operatur in vohis et velle et perficere pro 
bona voluntate sua ', the meaning of their canons, with respect to 
the essential question, is expressed in this apparent antinomy 
(Phil. ii. 12, 13). Apart from the doctrine of the efficacy of 
Baptism (to which we return in the sequel), what they affirm is 
that from the first beginnings of our growth into moral and 
spiritual consciousness we grow by the aid of divine Grace, not 
by our unaided nature; but divine Grace demands the co- 
operation of our v^lls. The ' anathema ' pronounced on those 
who say that men are predestined by God to evil imphes logically a 
total rejection of absolute divine predestination to good or to evil. 
Thus, what is rejected is : (i) any unqualified doctrine of absolute 
predestination, and (ii) the Semi-Pelagian doctrine that the first 
initiative comes from the unaided nature of man. The pubHc 
opinion of Christians at the time — if we may use the expression 
* pubhc opinion ' in this connection — was evidently ready for 
such a solution, which prevailed in the mind of the Church until 
the whole question was opened up again at the period of the 




The life, work, and death of Jesus Christ aroused in his followers a 
new consciousness of spiritual ideas and ideals. He stood in the 
line of that great Tradition which went deeper than all that was 
represented by the Pharisees — the Jewish Puritans — and the men 
learned in rabbinical lore : that great Tradition represented by the 
prophets, psalmists, and seers of Israel, for whom rehgion was 
inseparably bound up with morahty and morahty with rehgion. 
To his disciples he was not only ' Master ' (that is, ' Teacher ', so 
described many times in the four Gospels, and occasionally so by 
his critics and opponents). He was their Lord. In what sense? 
There w^ere ' gods many and lords many ' ; but he was Lord and 
Saviour. The impulse given by him was such that the rehgion of 
his disciples was no longer centred on an Idea, as Judaism was and 
continued to be. Through all its phases, from the earHest years, 
in each of its many types, Christianity had always for its centre 
the personahty of Jesus — a penetrating spiritual power, rousing 
into new directions the behefs which his disciples had inherited as 
Israelites, and through then\ and through Paul demanding expres- 
sion in ways beyond the range of the Judaism from which it 

Nevertheless, it had its roots in Judaism. The prophets were 
beheved to be fore-teUers as well as forth-teUers. Many state- 
ments made with emphasis by early Christian writers, especially 
those who wrote defmitely in defence of Christianity, reveal — as 
Harnack put it^ — ' the prominent and even commanding part 
played by the prophecies recorded in the Old Testament ', and, 
we may add, among these above aU by the messianic prophecies. 


This term needs a word of comment. It has often been appHed to 
everything in the Old Testament which is thought to refer, even 
indirectly, to Christ or to the Church, and even to all passages 
which speak of the hope of a better and glorious future. We use 
the term here in its more legitimate sense, in reference to passages 
which declare or imply the coming of a great personaHty, usually 
described as a king, who will be in a special way sent and endowed 
by God. The expectation of a divinely-appointed dehverer, the 
' Anointed One ', the ' Messiah ', entered into the prophetic hope 
of the ideal future, though not into every expression of it. The 
utterances which had the greatest effect on Christian theology are 
found among the prophecies in the canonical book of Isaiah. The 
relation of the birth-narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and 
Luke to the declaration in Isaiah vii. 14 (when understood to refer 
to a supernatural birth without a human father) is evident. The 
prediction in ch. ix. 6 and 7 is not referred to again in the Old 
Testament or in the New ; but in ch. xi the prophet gives a picture 
of the messianic kingdom and a prediction of a personal Messiah 
of David's line, the inaugurator of a new age, when ' the land 
(that is, the land of Israel) shall be full of the knowledge of the 
Lord, as the waters cover the depths of the sea '. 

That Jesus did beheve himself to be the Messiah is bevond 
reasonable doubt; but he charged his disciples not to make it 
known. It was to be a secret until he claimed it at the end. The 
praise of Peter for his confession of it is followed by a severe 
condemnation when Peter refused to admit the possibiht}' that his 
Master was a Messiah ^zV/n^ himself to death at the hands of blind 
and evil men for a victory more wonderful than any set forth in 
the words of the prophets. Therefore, in the New Testament, 
the title ' Messiah ' has a far richer depth and range of meaning and 
content than any given to it in the Old Testament or in later 
Jewish hterature. 

We do not expect to fmd, in the Apostohc Fathers, a systematic 
doctrine of the Person and Work of Christ. It is sufficient here 
to refer to Clement of Rome and to Ignatius of Antioch. Cle- 
ment is influenced by the Epistles of Paul, and, naturally, by the 
first to the Corinthians. His main purpose was one oi practical 


urgency, as we have seen; he is led to set forth the meaning of 
faith in ' the Lord Jesus Christ ', and these words have a theo- 
logical as well as a rehgious and ethical significance. There is no 
evidence that he entertained the doctrine wliich later theologians 
fastened on the major Epistles of Paul — that the death of Christ, 
as distinct from his life, is the sole ground for our justification in 
the sight of God, and therefore for our salvation. When 
Clement teaches that the death of Christ is the divinely-appointed 
means of our forgiveness, it is because that death and those suffer- 
ings move men to gratitude, repentance, and amendment. The 
following passages are decisive. ' Let us look steadfastly on the 
blood of Christ, and learn how precious it is to his Father, because, 
being shed for our salvation, it won for the whole world the grace 
of repentance ' (ch. xii). ' Through love were all God's chosen 
ones made perfect. Without love, nothing is well-pleasing to 
God. In love the Master took us to himself : on account of the 
love which he had for us, Jesus Christ our Lord, with the Will of 
God, gave ... his hfe for our hfe ' (ch. xhx). ' Through him 
our hearts are opened, and our darkened understanding rises 
again into his wonderful Light; through him, God has willed 
that we should share in the knowledge which gives us Hfe ' 
(ch. xxxvi). 

Ignatius emphasises, more than the other teachers in this group, 
the need of faith in the power of the death of Christ ; but there is 
no suggestion that it was a substitutionary suffering or a source of 
righteousness ' imputed to us '. The death of Christ is one of 
the mysteries ' which cause men to exclaim in amazement, but 
which God achieved in silence ' (Ignatius To the Ephesians, xix. i ) . 
The root of the whole mystery is, that ' faith is the beginning of 
our true hfe, and love the fulfilment of it '. 

Before the end of the first century thoughtful Christians per- 
ceived that the idea of the Logos was the principal category of the 
higher rehgious thought of the time (we may refer to page 66 
above) ; but it was apphed to Christ with a meaning which was 
ahen to Greek thought, and would have been inconceivable to 
Philo of Alexandria : ' The Word was made (or, became) flesh 
and dwelt among us.' This distinctive principle of the Christian 


doctrine of the Logos is of immeasurable significance : ' And we 
have seen his glory, glory such as an only son receives from a 
father ' (MofFatt's version of John i. 14, reading ' receives ' instead 
of enjoys ' : literally, as in R.V. margin, ' as of an only-begotten 
from a father '). 

The writings of the second-century Apologists show that the 
assimilation of the idea of the divine Logos with the rehgious ideal 
of divine Sonship, manifested in the person of the incarnate 
Christ, had become a first principle of Christian thought. The 
work of Justin Martyr is decisive in this respect, though he did not 
see the full range of the theological problem involved. ' In the 
beginning, God brought forth a rational Power, who is sometimes 
called Wisdom, sometimes Lord and Word, sometimes Messenger, 
sometimes God : for he has all these names because he ministers 
to the purposes of the Father, and was brought forth by the Will 
of the Father ' {Dialogue, ch. Ixi). We honour the prophets of 
the old Dispensation, but they had partial and separate gifts of the 
divine Spirit — that is, each according to his special needs and 
circumstances ; but Christ was endowed ' with the fullness of the 
Spirit, which is and was and shall be with him alone '. Again : 
' His Son, . . . being in Him [that is, in God] before all created 
things, and being brought forth when He [that is, God] created 
all things through Him [through the Son], is called Christ as 
creative Word, though that name has a deeper meaning than we 
can understand ; but Jesus is his name as man and as Saviour ' 
{Second Apology, ch. vi). In a few places Justin, when speaking 
of the Son as creative Word, speaks of him as a ' second God ', 
' not distinguished from the Father in name only, but another 
Being, generated from the Father . , . not by division, as if the 
being of the Father were reduced by the going forth of the Son '. 
On account of such statements, Justin has been charged with 
confused inconsistency. But the charge is unjust. He is trying 
to express in words the duality in unity reaHsed in the relation 
between the Father and the Son. The metaphors which he uses 
show this : ' When we utter a word, we beget a thought, but not 
so as to diminish the thought in our own minds by expressing it; 
or, again, when one fire is kindled from another, the latter is not 


diminished but remains the same, while the fire kindled from it 
shines by its own Hght.' 

Justin never questioned the historical character of the Fall-story. 
But his repeated declarations that men are saved by the death of 
Christ do not mean that there is a direct, essential, and exclusive 
relation between the death of Christ and the forgiveness of sins. 
The Fall brought on mankind no necessity of sinning : ' He 
created man a rational being, able freely to choose what is true 
and what is good; therefore there is no excuse for men in the 
sight of God, for men are intelligent beings ' [Apology, ch. xxvii, a 
reminiscence of the Epistle to the Romans i. 20 and 21). But ' if 
God postpones punishment, it is for the sake of men, for He has 
foreknowledge of those who will be saved through repentance, 
even before they are born ; and, foreseeing the ways in which men 
would misuse their freedom of choice, He ordained the means of 
salvation' [Dialogue, ch. cii). It is not exclusively through his 
death that Christ saves men, but by the whole of his work as 
incarnate Word : his revelation of the Father, his teaching, his 
resurrection. Men are saved through Christ because he has a 
unique power of bringing them to repentance, and helping them 
to sin no more [Dialogue, ch. cxi). 

A fundamental consideration of general interpretation arises 
here, w^ith a reference wider than to the doctrine of Justin. The 
early Christian behef in the saving power of Christ cannot be 
fully explained by the effects of his sufferings and death on the 
hearts of men. His sufferings and death seemed to be a concen- 
trated and appalling victory of evil, all the more mysterious 
because the Victim was divine as well as human. The Fathers 
appealed to ancient prophecy (Justin quotes at length from Isaiah 
Hi to hv), and to the recorded utterances of Jesus himself, and to 
the Epistles, to show why it was necessary that one who was at 
once divine and human should thus suffer and die. They were 
feeling after the real explanation : because he was divine as well 
as human, he gave himself.^ 

The hfe and work of Irenaeus belong to one of the most critical 
periods in the history of Christianity. The elaboration of specu- 
lative theology and mythology in the writings of the greater 


' Gnostics ', and their endeavour to read the technicahties of their 
systems into the words of the New Testament, had been the sub- 
ject of his drastic criticism. His reaction was not only that of a 
systematic theologian. He was prompted to plead for humihty 
and simpHcity in the face of profound problems : ' If a man asks, 
how the Son is begotten from the Father, we reply that no created 
being understands that generation, or manifestation, or by what- 
ever name we may describe that production which though real is 
ineffable^ — no being, not even the angels, but only the Father who 
begets and the Son who is begotten.' These expressions do not 
betray confusion of thought, but a strong desire to avoid the 
exclusive use of any particular technical term. For Irenaeus, ' the 
Father is the invisible of the Son, as the Son is the visible of the 
Father '. Among the metaphors which appealed to Irenaeus, is 
that of measure [mensura, used in the figurative sense of a plan or 
course of action which reveals a nature) : ' God makes all things 
by measure and order : the infinite God the Father reveals His 
Measure in the Son, for the Son is the Measure of the Father.' 

The fact is, that Irenasus is the first among the early Fathers to 
suggest a doctrine oikenosis in reference to the Incarnation. It is 
generally agreed that the important conception indicated by this 
technical Greek term has its scriptural source in the Epistle to the 
Pliihppians (ii. 6-8) : Christ Jesus, ' though he was divine by nature, 
did not set store upon equahty with God, but emptied himself by 
taking the nature of a servant : bom in human guise and appearing 
in human form, he humbly stooped in his obedience even to die. 
and to die upon the Cross ' (Moft'att's version). Irenseus saw that 
the question is closely related to the hmitations of Christ's human 
knowledge. Thus, addressing in imagination the Valentinians, 
he says : ' In your irrational arrogance, you profess to comprehend 
all the ineffable mysteries of Deity ; yet even the Son of God Him- 
self said that the day and the hour of Judgment were known to 
the Father alone. . . . If then the Son of God was not ashamed to 
ascribe the knowledge of that day to the Father alone, ... let 
us not be ashamed to leave to God those mysteries which are too 
deep for us to fathom.' Irenaeus is content wath the affinnation 
that, in reference to our humanity, * The divine Word came down 


to US not as he was able to come, but as we were able to receive 
him. He could have come to us in his eternal glory ; but as yet 
we have no power to endure the greatness of that glory. . . . He 
therefore was so understood as men were able to understand 
him.' ^ 

In their interpretation of Paul's statement neither Irenaeus nor 
any of the Fathers supposed the meaning to be that the Word in 
becoming incarnate divested himself of any of liis divine attri- 
butes. The self-emptying therefore was equivalent to the Incarna- 
tion, and was in no sense an explanation of that mystery. The 
divine Word in becoming man remained w^hat he was before. 
But another term in the Pauline statement is not free from serious 
ambiguity — the Greek term rendered ' robbery ' in the Authorised 
Version. Its hteral meaning is ' a thing to be grasped ' in the 
sense of being ' kept ' or ' retained '. In this connection it is 
evidently a metaphor requiring careful interpretation. Taken 
entirely apart from its context, the expression could be understood 
simply as an affirmation o£ the Deity of Christ — ' thought it not 
usurpation to be equal with God '. But, as Lightfoot made clear, 
the interpretation which the context requires is that the Greek 
term in question (which we transhterate as harpagmos) must be 
taken in an alternative and entirely legitimate sense as imphed in 
the margin of the Revised Version — a ' treasure ' or ' prize ' to be 
kept, a privilege to be maintained and manifested. Christ did not 
so regard it, but ' humbled himself ' in becoming incarnate. 
This interpretation was adopted without question by the Greek 

The reason for the incarnation is clear in the mind of Irenaeus. 
' The Word of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, became what we arc 
(though without sin) in order that he might perfect us to be what 
he is. For we could learn the things of God only because our 
Master, the divine Word, became man. Only God's Word 
could declare to us the things of the Father. We could not learn, 
unless by seeing our Master, and hearing his words, so that we 
might have communion with him according to his sayings ', 
receiving from him strength to overcome the evil vdthin us. 
' Because that evil which is against God had entered into us, we 


who by our nature belonged to God were estranged from Him 
and from our nature ; and the divine Word in his spirit of eternal 
righteousness came to redeem God's possessions from the power 
of evil, . , . but by persuasion, for God takes to Himself what He 
will, but not by force.' ^ 

In this connection Irenseus uses expressions which imply that in 
his belief, mankind, whom Satan had perverted and subjected to 
himself, must be bought back, and that Christ's sufferings and 
death were the ransom paid to Satan for that purpose. But to 
assume that this was what Irenaeus intended, is to rule out the 
' Recapitulation ' doctrine as irrelevant, and even to empty it of 
defmite meaning in its reference to Christ. His fundamental con- 
ception of the work of Christ is that of a victory over Satan ; and 
for the achievement of that work, Christ's Hfe and not only his 
death is of supreme import for mankind, because faith in Christ 
sanctifies human hfe : ' He came to save all through himself, all, I 
repeat, who through him were restored to God : even infants and 
Httle children, and boys and young men and old men. He hved 
through every age. Being made an infant, for the sake of infants 
he sanctified them : among little children, sanctifying them even 
at that age by his trust and obedience : among young men, becom- 
ing himself one of them, he sanctified young men to God : 
among older men, becoming himself one of them not only to 
communicate the Truth but to sanctify these also, as an example 
to all : and at the end, he gave himself to death, to conquer death, 
and to reveal himself as Master of life, before all and above all.' 

We must accept Harnack's judgment that Irenaeus is quite as 
free from the thought that Satan has real ' rights ' over man as he 
is from the idea that God accomplished Piis work of salvation by 
deceiving Satan. 

Irenaeus had destroyed the influence of Gnosticism ' as a serious 
factor in Christian thought ; but even then the Churches had no 
generally accepted doctrine of what was meant by the Deirv' of 
Jesus Christ. Shortly after the death of Irenaeus, and during the 
early years of the third century (the exact dates are uncertain), 
there arrived in Rome, from Asia Minor, certain theologians 
to whose propaganda the name ' Monarchianism ' was given. 


There has been considerable discussion about the origin of this 
name, but there is no doubt about what it meant in the minds of 
these men. The first principle of their theology, the fundamental 
idea on which it rested, was the sole Deity of the one and only 
God the Father — the ' Monarchia '. And for them, to speak of 
' one God ' meant not only the exclusion of polytheism but the 
absolute unity of the divine nature. In the light of this con- 
ception, they wanted a clear statement of what was meant by 
saying : (i) that Jesus is God, and (ii) that Jesus is the Son of God. 
On the other hand, there is no evidence that the Monarchians 
themselves had any clear idea of the logical meaning of unity ', 
or that ' unity ', if it is to mean more than a numerical ' unit ' in 
counting, must mean an internal relation. It soon appeared that 
there were two groups among them, or rather two tendencies of 
thought, differing fundamentally in principle. We may retain 
the terms which Harnack used to distinguish them — ' Adoption- 
ists ' and ' Modahsts ' respectively. 

According to the Adoptionists, Jesus began life with a personal- 
ity entirely human. But by reason of his unique personal quah- 
ties, he was chosen by God, endowed with miraculous powers, 
and — as it were — ' used ' by God for a divine mission as Teacher 
and Saviour. The divine Word (the Logos) was the divine 
activity in relation to the Man Jesus, who thus became Son of 
God by ' Adoption '. As a matter of historical fact, the Adop- 
tionist Christology was entirely consistent with the assumption 
that the divine Word was in relation with Jesus from the beginning 
of his individual conscious existence, so that at no period of his 
earthly existence was he a mere man. But it was essential to the 
Adoptionist Christology to maintain the complete reahty of 
Christ's human nature and of his perfect obedience. 

The Adoptionist Monarchianism became known in the West 
when its advocates came forward in Rome; but its most influ- 
ential exponent was Paul of Samosata, the royal city of Syria, who 
became Bishop of Antioch about a.d. 260, His theology was 
officially condemned at a Council held in Antioch in 268, when 
he was deposed from his episcopal office. His deposition was due 
as much to his personal character and his political activities as to 


his theology : he was Chancellor to Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, 
to whose kingdom Antioch then belonged. He refused to 
acknowledge his deposition, until he was expelled by the Emperor 
Aurehan, who had restored the unity of the eastern empire after 
the fall of Zenobia. The theology of Paul of Samosata is historic- 
ally more important than his personaHty. His deposition and 
banishment did not put an end to its influence.* 

Only fragments of his theological writings have survived. But 
it is clear that for him, Adoptionist Monarchianism was the funda- 
mental truth. The divine Word, the Logos, he beheved was a 
rational and spiritual energy, issuing from God and acting on the 
human Jesus from the beginning of his personal existence with 
increasing power, raising him to be Christ and Son of God and 
Saviour of the world. 

' There is nothing marvellous in that the Saviour had one Will 
with God.' Paul of Samosata affirms this, and maintains that ' as 
Nature reveals one and the same essence underlying different 
beings, so love, as a way of life, creates in different beings one and 
the same will through one and the same inner world of desire '. 
According to Paul, no other union between personal beings is 
possible save a union of will, and no other is praiseworthy : 
' different natures and different persons have only one means of 
union, springing from a harmony in the activities of those who 
are thus brought together. In this way, the Saviour, being joined 
to God, possesses for ever one and the same Will with God.' 
Unfortunately for the consistency of his Christology, Paul of 
Samosata, so far as we can judge from the passages from his writ- 
ings which have survived, had not grasped the essential meaning 
of the principle which he himself had stated — that unity of essen- 
tial nature is possible between beings who are not identical. He 
sometimes speaks as if will were a distinct and separate faculty in 
the nature of man and in the nature of God, and sometimes as if 
it were of the very essence at once of the nature of God and the 
nature of man. It is confusing to speak of the will of God and 
the wills of men as sometimes * in harmony ' and sometimes as 
' one and the same ' (an absolute identity). But there is no 
confusion in Paul's conviction that the nature of the incarnate 


Christ was a completely human nature, and that what is most 
divine in man is goodness : ' By the constancy of his disposition 
and his perfect obedience to the indwelling Word, he became Hke 
God and was united to God.' 

The ModaHst Monarchianism is important because of its lasting 
effects. Its most prominent advocates in Rome were three 
theologians from the Near East, Praxeas, Noetus, and SabeUius. 
Our knowledge of SabeUius is Hmited to statements about his 
teaching made by his theological opponents, who did not dis- 
tinguish between SabeUius, the individual, and ' Sabelhanism '. 
The orthodox Fathers looked upon ' Sabelhanism ' as a doctrinal 
danger to be carefuUy avoided. It is possible, however, to discern 
the outlines of what SabeUius himself had taught. Like the 
Adoptionists, he was supremely interested in the maintenance of 
monotheism ; but in other respects, SabeUius and the Adoptionists 
stood at opposite extremes. The cardinal principle of his Christ- 
ology was that during his earthly hfe Jesus Christ was a direct 
embodiment of God. This was to exclude any idea that Jesus 
was in any respect a derived being, and to affirm that * Jesus was 
God ' in the most hteral and logical meaning of the words. It 
appealed to aU who felt the immeasurable import of the death of 
Christ on the Cross, for it pointed to the Cross as the Father Him- 
self suffering. The doctrine of SabeUius, however, extended 
farther than this. It seems clear that he beheved in three direct 
manifestations of Deity in relation to mankind and the world : as 
' Father ', as ' Son ', and as * Holy Spirit ', and that he beheved 
these three manifestations to be in some way subject to succession in 
time : as ' Father ', He was Creator and Lawgiver; as ' Son ', He 
was Redeemer; as ' Spirit ', He was Giver of life and rationahty. 
Thus, the absolute ' unity ' of God admitted diversity of action in 
relation to finite or created beings, but it excluded any difference, 
within the divine Nature, of the kind which the Church after- 
wards caUed * personal '. Since unity is essentially a relation, a 
unity which excludes internal diversity is an empty abstraction ; 
but there is no evidence that this consideration ever entered into 
the minds of the modaUst Monarchians, The iUogical conception 
of * unity ', which SabelUus never questioned because he was 


unconscious of holding it, made it impossible for him to beHeve 
that the Son might be divine without being absolutely identical 
with the Father. It must be admitted, however, that any 
attempt to recover the teaching of Sabelhus, the individual, can 
be only hypothetical. What ' Sabellianism ' became is seen in the 
work of Marcellus of Ancyra, at a later date, when it became an 
object of severe criticism in the Nicene period. 

The name of ' Praxeas ' appears among the references to 
Modahsm in Rome ; but the chief importance of ' Praxeas ' is 
that Tertullian used his name as a label for the Modalist move- 
ment so far as he knew it. 

Praxeas had said that the term Logos meant no more than an 
expression uttered by a particular individual. If this statement is 
correctly reported by TertulHan, it betrays an extraordinary 
ignorance of the historical meaning and use of the term, and above 
all of its use in the Fourth Gospel. Tertullian holds that the term 
Logos is a legitimate metaphor involving a vital truth, because 
the Greek term Logos and the Latin Sermo (used as its equivalent) 
imply both a necessary distinction and a necessary relation between 
the thought or reason and its expression. He finds it necessary to 
guard against the charge of falling into the Gnostic assumption of 
' emanations ', which, as Tertullian understood it, imphed an 
entire separation between the Being produced and the Source 
from which he is produced : ' What I affirm, is the most intimate 
union between them.' But, with this intimate vinion, there is the 
difference denied by Praxeas, and this had to be explained. Tcr- 
tulhan was acquainted with the Greek language, but he wrote and 
thought in Latin. In Greek there were more terms available for 
theological use ; but Tertullian was certainly right in fixing on the 
two most important of the Greek tenns. These may be trans- 
hterated as ousia, of which the logical meaning is ' essence ', and 
hypostasis, of which the logical meaning is the individuahsation of 
the ' essence '. Greek thinkers did not always keep consistently 
to the logical meaning of these words, but in the present connec- 
tion, this is irrelevant. TertuUian, writing and thinking in Latin, 
used substantia for ousia, and persona for hypostasis. 

These were terms current in Roman Law, where the word 


substantia meant in general what we understand by ' status ', and 
therefore is logically an abstract term. It has been asserted that 
TertuUian made use of Roman legal conceptions in order to state 
his doctrine of the Person of Christ. The question is about his 
use of the term substantia as a definite theological conception : and 
we may maintain that in this connection he abandoned its 
technical legal reference. He used the term substantia to signify a 
mode of concrete existence ; and he therefore affirmed, as between 
the Father and the Son, the distinction of their Persons in the 
unity of their Substance. This, he affirms, is the meaning of 
Christ's saying, ' I and my Father are One.' ' Father ' and ' Son ' 
are correlative terms : ' Fatherhood ' impHes ' Sonship ', and 
' Sonship ' imphes * Fatherhood '. His criticisms of Praxeas are 
frequently expressed with characteristic violence of language; 
but it is clear that he was endeavouring to formulate a conception 
of unity which would avoid both sides of what we have called the 
* AU or None ' fallacy — either absolute identity or no real unity at 

The result was, that TertuUian bequeathed to the western 
Church a conception of the Trinity in which the term ' Substance ' 
is equally fundamental with the term ' Person '. 

When we turn to Egypt and Asia Minor, we find that what 
some modem theologians describe (as if by a technical term) as 
the Work of Christ was not beUeved to be limited to the days of the 
Passion or to the single experience of his death. His death was 
beHeved to be the cHmax of his submission ; but the real sub- 
mission of the divine Being was made manifest when it could be 
affirmed that the very God had entered into the domain of human 
experience. Clement of Alexandria boldly apphes the allegorical 
method of interpretation to the whole story of the Fall. For 
example, he affirms that the ' serpent ' signifies the attraction of 
' pleasure '. The ' Blood of Christ ', shed for men, signifies 
Christian knowledge — that rational insight into the truth about 
God and about His relation to mankind which it was the purpose 
of the Incarnation to give to the world. 

In the case of Clement of Alexandria the doctrine of the Incar- 
nation must be approached from his conception of the divine 


Word, the Logos, and the relation of the Logos to the world and 
to mankind. The fundamental conclusion which he derived 
from it is this : Christ, who is the divine Word, was in the world 
before he appeared in the human person of Jesus. He was prepar- 
ing the world for his visible advent. This, in Clement's behef, 
was the education of the world under its divine ' Instructor '. 
The ' Instructor ' gave philosophy to the Greeks, the Torah to the 
Hebrews, and prophecy to the Prophets. The Incarnation, 
therefore, was no absolute break in man's rehgious history : it 
was not an absolutely new beginning ; it took its place in a long 
series of divine movements in human nature. It follows that for 
Clement, all history is one, because all Truth is one : ' There is 
one river of Truth, but many streams flow into it on tliis side and 
on that. The fruits of Reason, apart from the Incarnate Word, are 
to be judged not from the ignorant and sensual, but from such 
men as Heracleitus, Socrates, and Plato, For such men, know- 
ledge is a covenant with God.' Nevertheless, ' the truths which 
we gather are fragmentary; each man seizes a fragment, and 
thinks that he has the whole '. 

Although the Incarnation has its place in a long series of divine 
dispensations towards mankind, Clement is convinced that it has a 
unique place. The following sentences from, the preface to his 
Exhortation to the Greeks are typical : ' Inasmuch as the Logos was 
from the beginning, he was and is the divine Source of all tilings. 
. . . This very Logos has appeared as man, he alone being both God 
and man. . . . Our divine AUy and Helper is one and the same : 
the Lord who from the beginning was Revealer, and now calls us 
to salvation.' All men belong to him : all souls are his. But 
' some belong to him by way of knowledge, while others have 
not yet attained to tliis : some belong to liim as friends, others as 
faithful servants, others only as servants '. Having taken to liim- 
self a body which could be seen and touched, he came into the 
world to reveal to man what is possible in obedience to the 
commandments of God : ' He could not abandon liis love for 
mankind.' In this connection, Clement affirms the ' impassi- 
biHty ' of the incarnate Christ. This is often misunderstood. By 
the ' impassibility ' of Jesus Christ, Clement meant that he had so 


trained liis body as not to be moved by passion arising from 
personal physical causes.^ To assume that the ' impassibihty ' of 
the incarnate Christ, in Clement's behef, meant that it was 
impossible for Christ to feel bodily pain would be to attribute to 
Clement some form of docetism. 

When we turn to Origen, we find that behef in Christ is placed 
in a wider cosmic setting. The world which we apprehend 
through our senses is only a portion of the invisible world — the 
universe. The distinctively Christian apphcation which Origen 
makes of this Platonic idea is that the universe, conceived as a 
whole of interdependent parts, itself depends absolutely on the 
Being who is at once active Reason and active Love : and Love, 
if it is more than a mere egoistic passion, must be conceived as not 
only revealing itself but as giving itself. This is the eternal genera- 
tion of the Son of God, ' a generation worthy of God, for which 
no comparison can be found in our finite human nature, because 
through it the unbegotten God becomes the Father of the only- 
begotten Son '. In a fragment preserved from his Commentary 
on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Origen quotes from the Book of 
Wisdom (viii. 35), and affirms that the natural meaning of the 
words is that the Son, here named the ' Wisdom of God ', is 
co-essential (of the same nature) with the Father. In several 
passages in his reply to Celsus, the Deity of Christ is expressed 
with a certain difference of emphasis ; for example : ' We beheve 
that the Logos was united with the soul of Jesus in a far higher 
degree than with any other soul, for he alone was able to receive a 
supreme share of the Father's perfect Wisdom and perfect Love. 
Through him the divine and human natures were so united that 
man's nature may become divine by sharing through faith in a 
nature more divine, not in Jesus alone but in all who not only 
beheve in Jesus but hve the Hfe which Jesus taught.' ^ 

There are statements in Origen, which, isolated and taken ' at 
their face value ', affirm a subordination of the Son of God, the 
divine Logos, to the Father who is the Source of aU being ; and 
' subordinationism ' was afterwards supposed to be a characteristic 
of the Alexandrian Christology. As far as Origen is concerned, 
this is a mistaken interpretation. What he has in view is the 


range of the activity of the Word in relation to the world and to 
mankind. Through this conception he explains the appearances 
recorded in the Old Testament : they were changes in relation to 
those who beheld him according to their several capacities. The 
same general idea is applied by Origen to the sayings of Christ 
recorded in the Gospels. Different sayings have different refer- 
ences. Men vary according to their needs and capacities, and 
therefore the incarnate Christ appears in different relations to 
different beholders. He was not the same to the sick at the foot of 
the mountain of Transfiguration as to those on the mount, who 
by reason of their strength were able to behold a divine appear- 
ance. Thus, there are those who need him as spiritual Physician 
and Redeemer; while others, who have become more perfect, 
are able to receive the higher gifts because they see in him the 
Wisdom and Love of God. 

Origen certainly entertained the idea of a kenosis, but he does 
not seem able to satisfy himself as to its appHcation. ' The eternal 
Son of God became in Jesus Christ a being of a two-fold nature, 
divine and human. For us, with our limitations, it is enough to 
know that the Son of God assumed a human body and a human 
soul. He emptied himself of his absolute equahty with God the 
Father, and showed us the way to know the Father. . . . We are 
lost in wonder that a Being, supreme over all created things, 
should have divested himself of his condition of majesty and 
become Man.' The reference to the oft-quoted passage in the 
Epistle to the PhiUppians is unmistakable : * The divine goodness 
in the person of Christ appears greater and more divine because 
he humbled himself, than if he had beHeved equahty with God to 
be a condition to be held and maintained, and had shrunk from 
becoming a servant for the salvation of the world. It was for 
the sake of those in bondage that the Son of God took upon him- 
self the form of a servant.' ' We must not beheve ', he observes 
again, ' that all the majesty of his Deity was confmed \\'ithin the 
Hmits of a human body, as if the whole of the divine Word, his 
Wisdom, his very Truth and Life, could not be thought of as 
acting anywhere else and he were forced witliin so small a com- 
pass.' None the less, the vital truth remains : the Son of God. 


' even within the compass of a human body, revealed the Will 
of the Father 'J 

Celsus had objected that what is true in the Christian Scriptures 
is no better and no more true than what is found (as we should 
say) in ' pagan ' writers. Origen rephes that God has planted 
in the souls of men a consciousness of the laws of righteousness and 
of ideals prompting them to a better hfe, and has been sending 
teachers through the ages to call that consciousness into life, in 
preparation for the full revelation of its meaning in the words of 
the Prophets and the Saviour.^ He dwells on the significance of 
this fact in relation to the sacrifices of those who have been wiUing 
to lay down their hves for the sake of their fellow-men. Think of 
the labours of the Christian Apostles. ' I beheve ', Origen de- 
clares, ' that any one who candidly considers the facts will perceive 
that these men could not have devoted themselves to Hves of 
danger, and even to certain destruction, without a profound 
consciousness of the truth which Christ had created in their 
hearts. They saw, in the death of him who was crucified for the 
human race, something akin to the deaths of those who in all 
nations have willingly died to save others. There is, in the 
nature of things, for certain mysterious reasons, ... a Law, such 
that even one just man, dying for the common good, may be the 
means of destroying many spirits of evil.' ' We need not wonder, 
then, that at length a chosen One came forth among men unique, 
in that there were none with him or before or after him such as he 
was.' The best that is in men is due to him : ' Through him there 
have been many Christs in the world, even all who like him have 
Hved for righteousness and defeated evil.' ^ 

We have already seen the significance of Origen's universahsm 
(ch. III. p. 95). The subjection of all things to Christ means 
the salvation of all created spirits — their supreme salvation, in 
which they become as divine as the angels — if not in this age, then 
during the countless ages which are to come. How, then, does 
the Hfe and death of Christ achieve this great salvation ? 

Origen deals very freely with the Pauline doctrine that men are 
' justified ' by the righteousness of Christ ; and he had already 
convinced himself that the details in the narrative of the FaU are 


to be interpreted allegorically (see above, ch. II. p. 52). He 
affirms the meaning of the PauHne doctrine to be that it was by 
the example and influence of Adam that his descendants and their 
posterity yielded to evil ; and the supreme sacrifice of Christ, in 
giving himself to suffering and death, moves the hearts of behevers 
to divine righteousness. This is the real faith. Faith which does 
not issue in ' good works ' is not real faith : ' It is impossible that 
one who has taken evil into himself can be accounted righteous, 
even if he beHeves in God who has raised the Lord Jesus from 
the dead.' ^^ 

The beginnings of the controversy which plunged the eastern 
Church into a long period of strife arose shortly after the death of 
Origen. An important indication of what was to come is seen 
in the correspondence between Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria 
(from 247 to 265), and his namesake of Rome (Bishop from 259 
to 280). 11 

In his anxiety to guard against ' SabeUianism ' the Alexandrian 
Bishop used expressions which were later employed for con- 
troversial purposes by the Arians. He was charged with error 
by some members of the Alexandrian Churches, and the question 
was referred to Rome. A Synod convened at Rome condemned 
the statements attributed to the Bishop of Alexandria, but con- 
tented itself with affirming that the Father, the Son, and the Holy 
Spirit really exist as Three, but the Three are at the same time One. 
The Bishop of Rome wrote to Dionysius of Alexandria reporting 
the fmdings of the Roman Synod, and asking for explanations. 
Dionysius wrote from Alexandria making an elaborate reply, in 
the course of w^hich he made clear that he had no thought of a 
separation between the Father and the Son. The Father, because 
He is a Father, cannot be ahen to the Son, nor the Son to the 
Father : the very names themselves signify a vital relation between 
the two beings ; and in the same sense the Holy Spirit is not ahen 
to the Father (from whom the Spirit proceeds) nor ahen to the 
Son (who bears the Spirit). He repudiates the charge that he had 
represented the Son as a created heing (the essential Arian doctrine) ; 
only the human body which he assumed w\is created. ' But we 
say that in a sense the Word was nmde, as some of the wisest men 


among the Greeks say that they are the makers of their books, 
while really they are the fathers of their books.' 

The Alexandrian Bishop used many illustrations from natural 
events to suggest the true view of the relation between the Father 
and the Son, and some of these he admitted, in his letter, were not 
appropriate. But his fundamental principle is interpreted by 
Athanasius : ' Life is begotten from hfe ... as hght is kindled from 
Hght which is not thereby reduced.' This illustration was 
regarded by the Fathers as of great value. We meet with it fre- 
quently : * Light from unquenchable Light '. Thus the Bishop 
of Alexandria explained his conviction that the Son is one in 
essential nature with the Father. The Bishop of Rome was not 
thinking specially of Sabelhanism. He was protesting against any 
behefs which stated or imphed a division in the divine Nature — 
a division in the ' Monarchia ', ' the most sacred doctrine of the 
Church of God '. He was thus prepared to use the principal 
term characteristic of the SabeUianist heresy, in order to avoid any 
suggestion of the idea of three Gods. The explanation given by 
most historians is almost certainly the true one. While both 
Bishops used the trinitarian formula, one emphasised the imity 
and the other the distinction of the three ' Persons '. The dis- 
cussion did httle more than open up the problem, a problem at 
once theological and philosophical, arising from the fact that any 
rational conception of Deity imphes the reahty of internal rela- 
tions within the divine Nature. 

Through the work of the Fathers whose teaching we have 
hitherto surveyed, we have seen that one conclusion of the first 
importance had been firmly estabhshed in the minds of Christian 
thinkers. It was a conclusion resting on the assumption that, in 
the case of any object of thought, a quahty or attribute is a charac- 
teristic simply possessed by that object — a characteristic which it 
simply has. Hence the Fathers were convinced that the divine 
Word, the Logos, was no mere quahty or attribute of God, in that 
sense ; and the identification of the divine Logos with the eternal 
Son of God gave to that conclusion its final form. 

During the later years of the third century. Christians in the 
empire were largely unmolested, although they were becoming a 


Strongly organised movement in the State; and being most 
numerous in the towns, they exercised an influence larger than 
their numbers seemed to suggest. But the beginning of the 
fourth century was marked by the last and worst persecution in 
the empire. It was ordered by Diocletian, and carried on with 
the utmost ferocity by his colleague Galerius after his abdication. 
But during his last illness, Galerius changed his mind, and in the 
year 311 he issued the famous ' Edict of Toleration ', which de- 
clared Christianity to be a religio licita : in other words, no legal 
disabilities or dangers attached to open profession of the Christian 
religion or to the maintenance of Christian worship. There is 
some evidence that Galerius issued the Edict through the advice 
and persuasion of his colleagues Constantine and Licinius, 
although Licinius remained a pagan. A short-Hved attempt was 
made to restore the power of paganism in Asia Minor ; but all 
persecution ended in the following year. 

There is no reason to doubt that Constantine was sincerely 
attracted to Christian theism; and after he had put an end to 
persecution, crushed his rivals in Asia Minor, and made himself 
master of the Roman world, he hoped for a united empire and 
peace; but his hopes were destroyed by the rise and spread of 
the Arian controversy.^^ 




The beginnings of Arianism and its early chronology are obscure ; 
but we hear definitely of Arius as an individual when in 312 he 
was ordained as presbyter by Achillas, then Bishop of Alexandria, 
Arius was not a busy heresiarch; he was a blameless Presbyter, 
with a strongly rationahstic mind, trying to make everything clear 
and distinct, but with no understanding of the logical conditions 
required to make ' clear and distinct ' the ideas which he was him- 
self employing. He was not a systematic theologian, but he was 
a skilful propagandist. He not only made his opinions seriously 
known to the Bishop of Alexandria, but, it would seem in order to 
popularise them, he set them out in metrical form, in a form used 
for convivial songs. The Bishop, Alexander, who had succeeded 
Achillas, was obUged to summon a Synod to meet in Alexandria, 
A.D. 321. Arius was excommunicated by the Synod, after his 
opinions had been decisively condemned. He then left Alex- 
andria, and soon afterwards found refuge vdth Eusebius of Nico- 
media, one of the influential ' court prelates ' of the time, after- 
wards prominent as an Arian leader. 

Arius now set himself to secure all the support that he could 
obtain from the eastern bishops. His propaganda was so far 
effective that by 324 the Emperor found a controversy raging 
which threatened poHtical as well as ecclesiastical trouble. Agree- 
ment must therefore somehow be secured. The former method, 
of summoning regional Councils or Synods, was evidently 
insufl5cient. Constantine therefore decided to summon all the 
bishops of Christendom to a General Council. If he could 
bring them to a decision, he could then give it the force of law. 



And SO he issued invitations to all Christian Bishops to meet him 
at Nicaea in Bithynia in the summer of 325. There are different 
statements about the actual number of bishops who attended ; but 
all the larger sees were represented, except Britain. From Spain 
there was only one bishop, Hosius of Cordova ; but he was an 
ecclesiastical statesman and a theologian of wisdom and abiht)\ 

From what Arius himself had written, only a few fragments of 
the ' Thalia ', the ' metrical version ' of his doctrine, have come 
down to us, together with two letters, one to Eusebius of Nico- 
media, the other to the Bishop of Alexandria — the latter com- 
munication, probably by the advice of Eusebius, being expressed 
in ' moderate ' terms. There is no doubt, however, about the 
theological position from which Arius started. He took for 
granted the antithesis between the idea of the ' uncreated ' and the 
idea of the ' created ', though he may not himself have drawn the 
full logical conclusion from it. He used it in the first place to put 
a definite meaning into the idea of the ' subordination ' of the Son 
of God. The essentials of the Arian Christology may be thus 
stated : (i) God is the one and only God, in Himself incompre- 
hensible, but revealed as creative by His Will. The divine Logos 
is a quality essential to the nature of God, and in no respect a 
distinct power or person, (ii) Before the universe existed, God 
created an independent Being, by means of -whom all other 
beings were to be created. This Being was not of the nature of 
God. He was a ' creature ', and as a ' creature ' his knowledge of 
himself and of God was imperfect. As incarnate in a human 
body, he was capable of bodily feeling and suffering, and of moral 
growth and change; and through final and complete persever- 
ance, he freed himself from change, and entered into a special 
relation with God. (iii) The doctrine of the Holy Spirit — a 
doctrine which the Arians felt themselves obhged to retain, on 
grounds of Scripture and Tradition — was inevitably in an 
uncertain position. There is some evidence that they beheved 
the Spirit to be a created being, created by ' the Son '. Hamack 
justly observed that the itiipossihility of personal communion with 
God follows inevitably if the Arian propositions are accepted. 

When the Council of Nicaea met, the Arians presented a creed 


Stating their principal propositions. It was rejected, with cries of 
indignation. It appears that the Emperor was surprised at the 
strength of the opposition to Arianism ; and when he learnt from 
Hosius that the West would never accept it, he perceived that 
Arianism was pohticaUy hopeless, as it actually was, at that time. 
He then exerted all his influence to induce the Council to arrive 
at an agreed conclusion on some other ground. He did not 
understand the issue that had been raised ; but he wanted agree- 
ment. A group led by the Bishop of Alexandria, guided by his 
deacon and secretary, Athanasius, who was then in his twenty- 
seventh year, desired a declaration which would exclude Arianism. 
But between this group and the outspoken Arians moved a great 
conservative centre-party, conservative in the sense of holding 
that the existing creeds and confessions provided a sufficient basis 
for a true statement of the Deity of Jesus Christ, without using any 
novel terms which were not found in the Scriptures. Their 
leading representative was Eusebius of Csesarea, probably the most 
learned prelate present, though his strength lay in Hterature and 
history rather than in theology. Eusebius presented the creed of 
his own Church, which aroused little hostihty. Its Christo- 
logical section may be thus translated : ' And we beheve in one 
Lord Jesus Christ, the Word {Logos) of God, God from God, 
Light from Light, Life from Life, Son only-begotten, first-born of 
every creature, before all ages begotten from the Father, by whom 
also aU things were made, who for our salvation was made flesh 
and Hved as a citizen among men.' The Arians would have 
accepted this statement, knowing that they could have put their 
own interpretation on its terms ; but Athanasius and his friends 
insisted on formulating a new creed containing terms which 
would expHcitly exclude Arianism. After much debate, the 
Nicene Creed in its original form was declared to be the faith of 
the Church. Its vital Christological section is as follows : * We 
beheve ... in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only- 
begotten from the Father, that is, from the essential nature [oiisia) 
of the Father : God from God, Light from Light, very God from 
very God, begotten not created, co-essential {homo-ousios) with 
the Father, through whom all things in the heavens and the earth 


were created : who for the sake of us men and our salvation 
descended, was made flesh, became man, suffered, rose on the 
third day, ascended into the heavens, and will come to judge the 
Hving and the dead : and (we beHeve) in the Holy Spirit. Those 
who say that there was a time when he (the Son) was not, (or) 
that before he was begotten he was not, ... or who say that the 
Son of God was created, or was capable of change or alteration : 
these the CathoHc Church anathematises.' ^ 

Shortly after the bishops separated, Constantine issued an 
imperial decree of banishment against Arius and those who had 
refused to accept the final declaration of the Council. As a 
matter of historical fact, the victory over Arianism at Nicaea was 
gained by the superior insight, energy, and decision of a small 
minority, with the help of half-hearted aUies — ' half-hearted ', 
because they were more dian doubtful about the use of non- 
scriptural terms as a test (' from the essential nature of the Father ' 
and ' co-essential with the Father '). Moreover, since Arian 
worship, and in particular Arian sacraments, did not differ from 
the orthodox ritual, and since the Arians used the term ' Son of 
God ' freely (though putting their owti meaning into it) , it was 
almost inevitable that the multitudes who could not see beneath 
the surface saw Arianism as what it seemed to be ; and the Arian 
leaders exploited this for their own ends. Many of them honestly 
thought that their position was a tenable one and their doctrine 
of Christ's Person the true one ; others were unscrupulous adven- 
turers skilful at working court intrigues. And beyond all these 
forces there was a feeling that Arius and his friends had been 
treated unjustly by the Emperor. An Arian reaction followed. 
Athanasius was singled out as a special object of attack after he had 
been appointed to the office of Bishop of Alexandria in the year 
338. The stormy controversies which followed are described and 
analysed in Gwatkin's indispensable work Studies of Arianism. 

These years of what seemed to be perpetually renewed defeat — 
when Athanasius hoped for the best and experienced the worst 
from the despicable tyrant Constantius, and above all the years of 
his third exile (356-361), when he could communicate \\'ith the 
world only through the hands of trusted friends — were the years 


in which he did most to make the Church feel the force of the 
faith in defence of which he had staked his Hfe. Only after he 
had returned to Alexandria from his third compulsory exile, in 
the seventieth year of his age, was it possible for him to enjoy a 
few years of peace. 

During the third exile of Athanasius Arianism seemed to have 
finally triumphed; but it was already beginning to disintegrate 
through internal dissensions. It is possible to discern three 
parties, moving in different directions, 

(i) The ' Semi-Arians ', whose leader was Basil, Bishop of 
Ancyra from 336 to 360. These men were not busy anti- 
Nicenes ; they were moved by worthy motives and conscientious 
scruples. They distrusted the extreme Arianism of some con- 
temporary theologians ; and they began to see that they must move 
nearer to the position of Athanasius. Hence they adopted the 
term ' like in essential nature ' [homoi-ousios) to express the 
relation of Jesus Christ to the Father. Athanasius took a sym- 
pathetic view of their declarations. ' We are discussing the ques- 
tion with them as with brothers ', he observed. The Bishop of 
Ancyra, and those who beHeved as he did, used expressions in 
controversy with the extreme Arians which impHed all that the 
terms distinctive of the Nicene declaration impHed : the Father, 
Fount of Wisdom and Life, the Son, Radiance from eternal Light. 
' But how ', asked Athanasius, ' can this be more fittingly ex- 
pressed than by "co-essential"? When we speak of him as 
co-essential with the Father, we are passing in thought beyond 
physical things ; we mean that he is really from the Father, and 
co-essential in no merely corporeal way.' Athanasius desired to 
detach them from an alHance to which they were traditionally but 
not by real conviction committed. He pointed out that the 
rejection of the term ' co-essential ' at the Council held at Antioch 
in A.D. 169 was irrelevant, resting as it did on the assumption that 
the term was to be understood ' in some corporeal way '. On the 
other hand, the ' Semi-Arians ' damaged their cause by their 
denunciations and personal attacks on the ' Anomoeans '.^ 

(ii) The ' Anomoeans ' were so called because the watchword 
of their Christology was ' unHke ' (anomoios) : Jesus was in every 


respect unlike the Father. The movement began to attract 
general notice through ^tius, a deacon in Alexandria, who set 
himself to attack the ' Semi-Arians '. Eunomius, his pupil and 
secretary, proved to be abler and more learned, and is remembered 
as the historic leader of the ' Anomoeans '. The importance of 
his propaganda is shown by the attention given to his writings by 
the Cappadocian Fathers. He pressed to the utmost extent the 
opposition between the uncreated and the created. The ' Son ' 
was only the first-made of all ' creatures '. Eunomius wrote 
frankly and definitely, avoiding evasion and vagueness, and he 
made no attempt to secure party support for his opinions through 
court intrigues. In this, he compared favourably with the 
' Homoeans '. 

(iii) The ' Homoeans ', whose leader was Acacius, Bishop of 
Caesarea, came forward as advocates of ' comprehension ' and 
' compromise '. But it was compromise of the worst kind, rest- 
ing not on unity of principle but on vagueness of terms. The 
watchword of their Christology was the word ' like ', a radically 
ambiguous term, which, emphasised by itself, covers aU kinds and 
all degrees of ' hkeness '. The leaders of this movement were a 
party of experienced court intriguers, and the ' Semi-Arians ' 
were manoeuvred into defeat. The Emperor Constantius was 
determined to force the Homoean compromise on the East and 
West, and by every means short of physical violence he secured 
the signatures of representatives from both sides to what has come 
to be called the ' Dated Creed ' of Sirmium, drawn up under his 
supervision. This, v^th a few verbal changes, was adopted at a 
Coimcil (dominated by ' Homoean ' bishops) held at Constanti- 
nople early in the year a.d. 360. This appeared to be a complete 
and final victory for ' Homoean ' Arianism. 

The appearance of victory was an appearance only. It is 
evident historically that Arianism was disintegrating into conflict- 
ing parties and into doctrinal confusion. But for the peace of the 
Church it was needful that the Emperors should be unanimous ; 
and this did not occur until Theodosius became ruler in the East 
when Gratian was ruling in the West. Both these men were 
supporters of the original Nicene declaration ; and at a Council 


held in Constantinople in 381 the original Nicene doctrine was 
definitely reaffirmed. This was eight years after the death of 

Even apart from its importance in the history of Christianity, 
the position taken by Athanasius is of great significance philo- 
sophically and theologically. The Arians treated the two orders 
of existence, the merely created and the absolutely uncreated, as 
together exhaustive of all being. Athanasius beHeved that this was 
to miss the essence of Christianity. Christianity introduced a 
new idea, the idea and ideal of Sonship to God. He, of course, 
well knew the importance of this idea in the Old Testament, and 
the emphasis placed upon it by the earher Fathers; but in his 
conviction, it became the^ri^ principle of the Christian reUgion, 
historically reahsed only in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Thus, 
in reference to the words ' I and my Father are One ', Athanasius 
affirms that they are One, not as one Being twice named, as if the 
same Being were at one time Father and at another time Son 
(according to the error of Sabellius) ; ' they are One, because their 
nature is One ; and they are two, because the Father is Father and 
the Son is Son, not as a Being external to the Father, but as sharing 
His characteristic nature ' (from the Third Oration against the 
Arians, chapter XIII. iv). And again, in the Fourth Oration, the 
writer affirms that ' the Son is one with the Father because he is 
from the Father : the inseparable imion consists not in two 
things being the same, as this is that, but through the Son being in 
the Father and the Father in the Son '. The writer evidently 
beHeved that this statement, rightly understood, excludes ' Sabel- 
Hanism ' in affirming, not that ' I am the Father ', but that ' I am 
the Son of God ', and that it excludes Arianism in affirming that 
' I and the Father are one '. (The reference here is evidently to 
the words which follow the famous text in the Fourth Gospel, x. 
30 compared with x. 36.) 

We see therefore the essence of the conviction for which 
Athanasius and his friends contended. There are three possibih- 
ties : (i) The Father and the Son are two names for the same 
Being : this was the error of SabeUianism — there is no distinct 
existence for the Son of God. (ii) The Father and the Son are 


two entirely separate Beings : this is the logical issue of Arianisni, 
and is equivalent to polytheism, (iii) The Father and the Son are 
co-essential : this is unity realised through difference. It is clear, 
from the statements of Athanasius and other Fathers, that they 
were greatly concerned to avoid either of two opposite extremes : 
on the one side, that there is no difference between God and 
Christ — the Incarnation was God embodied; and on the other 
side, that between God and Christ, there is aU the difference 
between the absolutely uncreated and the ' creature '. This is 
not the place or the occasion to raise the question, how far the 
traditional Christology of the Church has succeeded in avoiding 
both these extremes. 

Athanasius was aware that even the idea of ' sonship ' in refer- 
ence to Deity is an ideal symbol, an ' image ' illustrative of a 
relation too fundamental for adequate formulation in human 
terms. Every such ' image ' is inadequate in one or other of its 
aspects.* Since God contains in Himself all perfection, He con- 
tains the perfection of every vital relationship among created 
beings. Some aspect of the perfect and eternal divine generation 
is reflected as it were, in an immeasurably reduced form, in each 
natural generation. In human sonship three things are present : 
bodily form and feeHng, priority of the parent in time, and 
community of nature. In this third factor themeaning of divine 
Sonship is reflected. The relation of priority in time, involved in 
human parenthood, appHes to Deity as little as bodily form and 
feeling. In the essential reference, unity, and communit}^ of 
nature, the illustration from human fatherhood is best; but in 
reference to the eternal co-existence of the Father and the Son 
Athanasius uses the metaphor found often in the early Christian 
thinkers — eternal radiance generated from eternal Light, 

The ancient metaphor of the ' Word ' [Logos] is likewise only 
a symbol. If we knew Christ only as ' Word ' we might think 
of him only as an impersonal quality ; but when we know hun as 
' Son of God ' we know that he is the living Word. The value 
of the illustration is to indicate that the Father does not lose in the 
generation of the Son, but completes His Deity therein, just as 
human reason does not lose but actually gains when it finds 


adequate expression in rational utterance. In human experience 
the ideas which find rational expression themselves become more 
clear and distinct. All finite spiritual beings increase only by 
self-giving. And since Deity is not the fmite but the perfect and 
complete, in Deity there is the eternal completion of the Being of 
the Father in the Son. 

When these rehgious principles are apphed to human nature 
and human Hfe, as Athanasius knew it in the contemporary world, 
the fact, evident before all else, is that men need salvation. What 
do they need to be saved from ? This leads to his interpretation of 
the narratives of Creation and the Fall, in the first three chapters 
of the Book of Genesis.^ Creation ' out of nothing ' means to 
Athanasius, as it does to the Fathers generally, out of nothing 
existing independently of God. He rejects the theory of inde- 
pendently existing ' matter ', as implying an imperfect conception 
of God, as if He were an artificer working (hke a carpenter) with 
given material. Athanasius accepts the Fall-story as history, but 
not as Hteral history in every detail. In the case of mankind, to 
be created ' out of nothing ' means that man's whole nature is 
essentially mortal : the bare act of creation did not confer the 
capacity of independent or even of continuous existence. 
Therefore God did not simply ' create ' man but gave him ' a 
portion of the power of His own Word, that thus being made 
rational man might abide for ever in blessedness '. In Paradise 
man led a Hfe free indeed from pain and sorrow, but not perfect, 
though it involved the promise of participation in heaven. Thus, 
the downward tendency, belonging to the nature of the merely 
created being, is counteracted by the upward tendency through 
participation in the divine Word. ' God made all things out of 
nothing through His own Word, that is, through our Lord Jesus 
Christ ; and with special mercy on the race of mankind, which 
through the conditions of its origin could not continue [as merely 
created]. He gave them a fiirther gift, not merely creating man 
as He had created all other creatures, but making man after His 
own Image, giving man a portion of the Power of His own 
Word.' ^ The divine Logos, pervading all creation, made man 
able to become a rational being, to recognise the Wisdom 


immanent in the universe, and to rise to a knowledge of God as 
the Source of all being and of himself as made ' in the image of 
God '. Men were saved from what we may call the ' metaphysical 
penalty ' of the merely created being — the downward tendency 
to non-existence as human. But they were not, so far, saved from 
the consequences of misusing their own wills. Man began to 
choose the worse against the better; and in this rejection of the 
better, which is a rejection of the best, all the vice and evil of the 
soul consists. 

To Athanasius, the Fall was the source of an increasing evil, 
spreading as a disease spreads. Men rejected the Word which 
moved vdthin, and which had power to save their souls. They 
contrived evil for themselves, and fell back into their merely 
natural state, ending in disintegration and death. The world 
became a scene of all manner of evils : ' cities were at war with 
cities, and nations were rising up against nations, and the whole 
world was rent with civil strife and war '. The collective conse- 
quences of the Fall are declared by Athanasius in the two terms 
wliich we have quoted, ' disintegration ' and ' death ' (the Greek 
term usually rendered ' corruption '. By ' death ', as a result of 
the Fall, he does not mean merely bodily death. The word is 
almost certainly used to signify that condition into wliich the 
soul passes through persistent rejection of what is good, a condi- 
tion from which in the end the distinctive ethical and spiritual 
quahties of humanity are absent, a life which has in effect ceased 
to be human. It has been said that a ' personification ' of death 
takes the place of the ' devil ' in the Athanasian view of the 

What, then, is to be the fate of man? ' It is monstrous ', he 
declares, ' to suppose that creatures once made rational and sharing 
in the life of the divine Word, should turn again to the downward 
path which leads to disintegration and death, whether by their own 
self-will or by the deccitfulness of evil spirits. . . . Otherwise what 
is the use of man having been made originally in God's Image ? 
It had been better for him to have been made simply like a brute 
animal, to hve the life of the brutes. . . . God made man for Him- 
self, for a destiny not other than divine.' In a striking passage in 


the De Incarnatione he develops the metaphor of a picture overlaid 
v^ith dirt : the Image of God still existed in human nature, though 
effaced by sin : ' When a Hkeness painted on a panel has been 
effaced by stains, ... he w^hose likeness it is must come again for 
the portrait to be renewed on the same wood : for the sake of the 
portrait the mere wood on which it was painted is not thrown 
away.' ' So the Son of God came to our humanity, to renew 
what was formerly made in his likeness : ' Who, then, was 
needed but the Word and Son of God, . . . who gave movement 
to all things in creation and by them made known the Father? 
Even he by his own ordering of all things was teaching men con- 
cerning the Father — he it was who could renew this same teaching 
as before.' How, then, could this have been done? ' Some may 
say, by the same means as before, . . . for him to show forth the 
truth about the Father once more by means of the works of 
creation. But this was no longer a sure means, for men missed 
seeing this before, and turned their eyes no longer upward but 
downward. . . . Therefore he came to dwell among us as a man, 
taking to himself a body like other bodies, so that they who did 
not know him from his ruling and ordering of all things might 
learn, from what he said and did in the body, that he was indeed 
the Word, the Son of God, and that through him they might 
know the Father.' 

The eternal Son of God, through his creative activity and abid- 
ing immanence, has an inherent relation to the human race. But 
the increasing dominance of evil necessitates his entering on a 
special relation to the world in which he had always been present 
— a uniquely intense and effective relation. Only thus can the 
disintegration, which is the inevitable result of wrong-doing, be 
counteracted. It is the inner hfe that is wrong, and the inner hfe 
needs to be renewed and healed. No external act can suffice : ' If 
the curse had been removed by an act of power, there would 
indeed have been a manifestation of the power of God's Word, 
but man would only have been the recipient from without of a 
Grace which had no real place within his nature ', that is, which 
was not an unfolding of his inner capacities. Salvation is im- 
possible, except through a nature akin to our own; we can be 


redeemed only by that with which we have something in com- 
mon : salvation therefore is impossible except through man, and 
therefore the Son of God came to Hve a natural hfe on 
earth. But it is equally true that salvation is impossible except 
from God. Salvation therefore is the work of the Son of God, 
who is divine by nature and yet became man. The death of 
Christ was a part, but only a part, of the work of redemption : 
Christ did the work, not as a substitute for man but as a representa- 
tive of man. What this meant is clear, when we remember that 
for Athanasius, as for Irenseus, the soHdarity of mankind is primary 
and fundamental. The Incarnation became the saving force 
because therein the divine Christ became partaker of a complete 
human experience, save that he was without sin, and in his 
Resurrection revealed his power over death. 

Personal experience taught Athanasius that divine saving 
power is actually at work among men, through Jesus Christ, but 
only through Jesus Christ ; and this salvation he beheved to be 
the direct and immediate action of the Infinite and Eternal God. 
Thus, the spiritual and philosophical meanings of the Fatherhood 
are brought together into unity. In devoting aU his strength to 
defence of the principle that true sonship implies kinship of nature, 
that the Son is co-essential with the Father, Athanasius was con- 
tending for the preservation of one open channel by which the 
redeeming power that is divine may pervade humanity. Arian- 
ism cut off all such channels, and left men with a subordinate 
created God as a commander-in-chief. Athanasius was therefore 
contending for a religious reahty which is vital to Christianity. 
But the theological setting in which he places his faith in that 
Reahty rested on his assured conviction that the divine dispensation, 
is set forth in a miraculously inspired literature whose statements, 
historical and doctrinal, are fmal. 

For this reason, Athanasius devoted the main body of his 
principal work against the Arians (regarding the three ' Orations ' 
as a single work) to an examination of the ' stock texts ' of 
Arianism, including a very elaborate discussion of the famous 
statement : ' The Lord formed me (Wisdom) in the beginning of 
his way, the first of His works of old ' (Prov. viii. 22, as given in 


the margin of the Revised Version) . There is no reasonable doubt 
that the Hebrew verb should be rendered * formed ' or ' created ', 
as in the Septuagint, as a matter of exact translation; but 
Athanasius was convinced that this did not settle the question of 
its interpretation. We are not, he maintained, obHged to read 
into the word the meaning which the Arians read into it. Indeed, 
the difference between his understanding of the whole verse and 
the Arian understanding of it went far beyond questions of transla- 
|tion. It rested on an irreconcilable difference in the convictions 
with which they approached the words. Arius came to the text 
v^dth the conviction of an absolutely irreducible antithesis between 
the idea of the created and the idea of the uncreated. Athanasius 
came to it with the conviction that there is no such absolutely 
irreducible antithesis. The work of the divine Word pervading 
creation means that even ' fallen ' man is not a mere ' creature '. 

At the Council of Nicaea the vital question had been over the 
relation of the divine Word to God the Father Almighty, the 
Creator of the heavens and the earth. When the Nicene declara- 
tion was coming to be generally accepted, that the relation was 
one of Sonship, and that the Word was the essentially divine Son 
of God who became incarnate in the man Jesus, it was inevitable 
that the question should arise : In what way was the Son of God, 
divine and eternal, related to the human nature ? 

One of the strongest supporters of Athanasius at Nicaea was 
Apollinarius, afterwards Bishop of Laodicea in Syria (a.d. 361- 
377). His contemporaries speak of the range of his learning and 
the extent of his literary work. Historians have pointed to the 
interesting fact, that even after his separation from the orthodox 
Fathers they speak of him with much more respect than they 
usually give to ' heretics '. To the end, he remained on terms of 
personal friendship with Athanasius, notwithstanding the differ- 
ence in their respective convictions over the doctrine of the Person 
of Jesus Christ. Epiphanius, a man with a talent for zealous abuse 
of all whom he conceived to have fallen into theological error, 
declared that he himself, as well as Athanasius and ' all Catholics ', 
' loved that illustrious and venerable old man '. Only fragments 
and short extracts from his authentic writings have survived. 


Most of all to be regretted is the loss of the whole of his elaborate 
treatise dealing with the attack on Christianity made by the Neo- 
Platonist Porphyry, whose criticisms were more serious and more 
fundamental than those of Celsus, with which Origen had dealt 
in the previous generation. 

Apollinarius was convinced that if Jesus Christ is a divine 
Saviour of men, then his divine and his human nature must be 
vitally related. But divine nature is beyond all possibihty of 
change. (Here we must again emphasise the fact that when early 
Christian writers speak of the divine nature as without change, 
they are thinking of that kind of change which imphes increase or 
decrease in range of being or perfection.) The divine nature 
excludes change as necessarily as it excludes sin. How, then, does 
it come into vital relation with human nature? What is the 
constitution of human nature? Apollinarius follows Paul in 
accepting the three-fold ' division ', current in contemporary 
thought, according to which man's nature consisted of: (i) the 
visible and tangible body, as such, with all its internal organs ; (ii) 
what is usually called the ' animal soul ', including all that modem 
psychologists have classed as ' organic sensations ' and all those 
instincts and impulses directly correlated with bodily life — the 
' animal soul ' being described as non-rational, in the sense that 
when we consider it by itself it lacks the controlling principles of 
reason and freedom ; (iii) the rational and spiritual soul, the con- 
trolling principle which is distinctive of man, but which is subject 
to growth and change, and to the power of inherited evil. In 
this conception the factors (i) and (ii) are so intimately inter- 
mingled that they may be counted as one, in which case we have a 
two-fold division ; and for the higher element the Enghsh word 
' mind ' is often used. 

How, then, may we think of the embodied Christ as absolute- 
divine Saviour? ApoUinarius found himself driven to the con- 
clusion that the divine Word took the place of the rational and 
spiritual Mind in Jesus Christ. The Word took to himself a 
human body with all its inherent quaHties and tendencies, and 
completely animated these human elements with the higher divine 
life. This meant, and Apollinarius intended it to mean, that the 


divine Word, the Logos, took the place of Mind in the man Christ 
Jesus, so that in his Incarnation the human element was impersonal 
in the strict meaning of the term, consisting as it did of the body 
and the mental processes most closely correlated with the body.^ 

ApoUinarius was convinced that a true conception of the Person 
of Jesus Christ imphed a real unity of the divine and the human. 
He was at one with Athanasius in beHeving that the essential pur- 
pose of the Incarnation was to deliver men from sin (Fragment 
74). Experience of the world around him had also convinced 
him that sinfulness had become such an inevitable part of human 
nature that only an absolutely unique divine act could deliver men 
from it (Fragments 51, 95, and 196) : ' But those who say that 
there are two Minds in Jesus Christ, a divine and a human, are 
asserting what is impossible (are " trying to write with a finger 
on a stone ") ; for, if the divine Mind is always moved by an 
unchanging Will, it is impossible that in one and the same individ- 
ual being two opposite wills should exist together, each reaHsing 
its own purposes by a self-determining tendency. The divine 
Mind is always self-moved to One End, for it does not change ; 
while the human mind, though self-moved, does not always move 
to the same end. The Changeless and the changing do not unite 
together to constitute one and the same individual being. Such 
a being would be in a state of inner conflict through the move- 
ments of mutually opposed wills' (Fragments 150, 151). The 
conclusion therefore is that he was not co-essential imth man in 
the most distinctive element of human nature — the mind (in the 
wide sense of this word which we have already indicated). 
Apollinarius makes a striking use of Origen's illustration of the 
white-hot iron : ' If the union of heat and iron makes the iron 
look hke fire and makes it do what fire does, and yet does not 
change its nature as iron, so the union of God with the human 
animate body offers to those who can touch it the energy of the 
divine nature ' (Fragment 128). 

The influence of Apollinarius, and indeed the possibiUty of an 
adequate understanding of his teaching, suffered from the activi- 
ties of his followers, who endeavoured, with Hmited success, to 
build up a sect of ' Apollinarian ' congregations. To them is 


probably due the idea that he beheved that the body of Jesus was 
* eternal in the heavens '. Apart from this mere misunderstanding 
the orthodox Fathers were right in asserting that the ApolHnarian 
Christology impHed that God had not become man. Understood 
strictly, it is the idea of God, as present, so to speak, in a human 
' shell ', which is not an Incarnation but a mere ' theophany '. 
The statement that ' two complete and perfect beings ' cannot 
become one depends on the meaning given to the cardinal terms 
' perfect ' and ' one '. The statement can be understood to be a 
bad case of the ' All or None ' fallacy : the ' perfect ' being defined 
so as to exclude every kind of Hmitation, and unity (' one ') being 
defined so as to exclude every kind of diversity. It is scarcely 
possible that ApolHnarius, a student of Aristotle, should have been 
guilty of this fallacy. On the other hand, the statement that ' t\vo 
complete and perfect beings cannot become one ' may be under- 
stood as the admission of an undeniable fact. Complete and 
perfect Deity, Deity Hmited by nothing beyond Himself, whose 
activity therefore is beyond all Hmitations of time and space, 
cannot be completely manifested in a human nature which, 
though perfect, is embodied and therefore subject to hmitations 
of time and space. To make this intelligible, some form of the 
kenosis doctrine is needed. Apolhnarius had perceived this. The 
Incarnation involved the necessary absence of certain divine attri- 
butes, but not ' a limitation of the divine Word which left him 
nothing beyond corporeal existence' (Fragment 138). 'Cor- 
poreal existence ' includes those mental states which in modem 
terminology are called ' organic sensations '. 

The suggestion has been made that when Apollinarius was 
defending himself against the charge of mutilating ' the humanity' 
of Jesus Christ, he intended to teach that the Logos was the 
' archetype ', the divine original and originative ideal, of human 
nature. All human souls are in their measure akin to the divine 
Word; but when in Christ the Logos was actually present in a 
human body the highest form of humanity was reaHsed. There- 
fore, in becoming the Incarnate Word, with the Word, the di\'ine 
Logos, ' taking the place ' of the mind as in other men, Christ Avas 
not less human but more human for the diiference. The imphcations 


of this conception are important. The human element in the 
incarnate Christ does itself point to the divine as its ideal comple- 
tion ; and the hicarnation is the revelation, on the field of time, of 
what was latent in the divine Word from all eternity. The very 
nature of the divine Word was to become man in historical form ; 
and in that sense ' the Word, who by his essential nature is the 
eternal archetype of humanity, bears within himself a movement 
towards a real Incarnation. Christ then is the archetype of 
humanity, . . . and in becoming hke to us assumed our humanity 
in order to exalt us.' That ApoUinarius held this doctrine, with 
all its imphcations, cannot be conclusively shown from the surviv- 
ing portions of his works ; but there is nothing in them to show 
that he never entertained it or never intended to teach it. It is 
naturally suggested by the great importance which he attached to 
the Pauline statement that Christ the ideal Man, was ' the Lord 
from Heaven '.^ 

The work of the Cappadocian Fathers was contemporary with 
the propaganda of the ' Apollinarians '. Arianism, even in the 
form advocated by Eunomius, was ceasing to be a dangerous 
factor in Christian thought. We shall endeavour to interpret the 
Christology of the Cappadocians in immediate connection with 
their doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the Trinity. In the present 
context we are concerned with the Christological controversies 
which distracted the eastern Church after the death of Apol- 

The character of these controversies was as much due to the 
temperament and tendencies of the men who carried them on as 
to the importance of the theological questions involved. The 
great rehgious thinkers of the eastern Church, Irenaeus, Origen, 
Athanasius, the Cappadocian Fathers, had no successors to equal 
them. In the Greek-speaking provinces of the East, there were 
three great sees, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Antioch; but 
every town, at least in the more civilised parts, had its bishop, and 
the eastern prelates were possessed by a kind of agitation which 
made them suspicious, loquacious, and disastrously ready for 
controversy or for compromise. And beyond all this, ' racial 
hatreds, poHtical animosities, ecclesiastical rivalries, and personal 


jealousies, continued to exasperate theological differences; they 
went on, increasing in bitterness, until the seventh century, when 
the judgment came, and eastern Christianity was dehvered into 
the hands of the Moslems \^^ 

During the first half of the fifth century, two men stand out as 
promoters of conflicting attempts to explain how God and Man 
' became one ' in the Person of Jesus Christ. These are : Nes- 
torius, Bishop of Constantinople from 428 to 431, and Eutyches, 
Archimandrate of a large monastery near Constantinople, who 
exercised a wide influence among the monks of Egypt and Asia 

Nestorius was charged with dividing Christ into two personali- 
ties existing together in conjunctive union. Nestorius had come 
from Antioch to Constantinople; and Theodore, the most dis- 
tinguished representative of the ' School of Antioch ', is usually 
asserted to have been the * founder ' of ' Nestorianism '. But if 
what the orthodox Fathers attacked as ' Nestorianism ' was not 
the teaching of Nestorius himself, w^ho was a personal friend of 
Theodore, then Theodore cannot have been responsible for ' Nes- 
torianism '. He was an abler thinker and theologian than 
Nestorius, and is more interesting for modem thought ; but the 
part taken by Nestorius in the controversies which ensued make 
him historically the more important figure, Theodore died in 428. 
the year in which Nestorius came to Constantinople. 

Theodore was convinced that the Church, in condemning 
' ApoUinarianism ', had affirmed beHef in the complete humanity 
of the incarnate Christ, and, as a Christian thinker, he was deter- 
mined to hold the reahty of the divine and the human in Christ, 
and to admit only such a union as was consistent \\ith that reaHts\ 
As a matter of personal rehgion, he beheved that Christ must have 
been a man, whatever more he was : a man, having a real body, a 
rational soul, going through a real (not merely apparent) growth 
in spiritual quahties as well as in bodily stature. Hable to temptation 
but without sin. Such was the Christ he found in the New Testa- 
ment, and such was the Christ who could lay hold on human 
sympathies. The divine Word, having taken upon himself 
human nature, took upon himself all its consequences. God did 


not impart to that human nature all wisdom in childhood, but 
granted it gradually. Hence there was a growth in knowledge, 
with the consequences that there were some things which the 
incarnate Christ did not know. 

According to Theodore's reading of the Fall-story, the original 
condition of man was one of changefulness, arising from his capacity 
for self-determination, not indeed without divine guidance, but 
with a guidance which was not compulsion, and which did not 
exclude the real possibihty of moral growth, and of temptation 
and surrender to evil, resulting in death. The Fall of man did 
not introduce death into the world : it converted the liability to 
death into a fact; and above all, it made sin, not a nature, but a 
dispositional factor in the human race. All mankind followed in 
the way of the first man ; and death served to increase sin. It 
involved men in constant infirmities, and physical weakness 
strengthened the tendency to moral evil. But the divine fore- 
knowledge covered all of this, and the divine purpose was not 
defeated. Man's destiny is for perfection ; and the way to it was 
inaugurated by the Incarnation, but again, not without the co- 
operation of the wiUs of men. 

For that reason, in the first place, the Law was given, to call 
forth the consciousness of good and evil, and to show to man his 
inabihty by his own efforts alone to attain to real righteousness. In 
our present state of changefulness and mortaHty we cannot con- 
quer the forces of evil without divine aid. Therefore the Son of 
God, the divine Word, became incarnate, to raise mankind to that 
higher freedom where the attacks of moral and spiritual evil will 
not have any effect. To fulfil this mission, it was needful that the 
Son of God should pass through all the experiences of human Hfe, 
including the experience of real choice between good and evil ; 
but in his case without sin. 

Theodore attached special importance to the words written in 
Luke ii. 52 : ' The child increased in wisdom as in years, and in 
favour with God and with men.' He understood these words to 
mean that the growth in wisdom was increased by the favour 
which Jesus had with God : * Men indeed saw him growing, but 
God not only saw it, God co-operated with him in all that he did. 


He practised every virtue w^ith greater ease and more perfectly 
than other men, because God had united him to Himself by grant- 
ing to him that larger power needed for the vast labour of saving 
mankind. God guided all his efforts, inspired him to strive ever 
after supreme perfection, and at some moments reUeved and 
lightened his labours of body and soul.' 

In v^hat w^ay, then, was the divine Word united with the man 
Jesus ? Theodore describes that union in different ways. Some- 
times he uses the words ' connection ' or ' conjunction '. These 
words are not as vague, in his Greek, as they are to us : as we have 
seen, he uses them of the relation between the visible and the 
invisible in the one universe. But above all, he beheved that the 
essential fact is indicated in Paul's repeated references to the divine 
* indwelling ' (Rom. viii. ii. Col. iii. i6, and II Tim. i. 14). How, 
then, did the divine Word, the Son of God, dii^ell in Jesus Christ ? 
God cannot, in His own essential nature, have dwelt in the man 
Jesus, for God cannot be limited or circumscribed. Neither can 
we say that God's indweUing in Jesus was an exertion of His 
almighty power, for the whole creation and the providential order 
of all things is due to His almighty power. It remains that we 
must think of God's indwelling as through His Love to man, that 
is, in those who are well-pleasing to Him, ' though not equally in 
all '. Thus God is said to ' dwell in ' the prophets and the 
apostles, or in righteous men. But in Christ there is something 
unique. In Christ the divine Word dwells ' as in a Son ' : ' By 
this indwelhng, he joined entirely to himself the human personaHty 
which he had taken up, and made that human personaHty share in 
all the high qualities which he, the indwelling Son of God, had by 
nature : by this indwelling, he joined the human personaht}' to 
himself, giving to the man a share of the divine power, subject to 
the difference in the characteristic quahties of tlie two natures.' 
The criticism passed on Theodore's Christology, by ancient and 
modern writers, is to the effect that he affirms a moral but not an 
essential unity. However, there is (to borrow TertuUian's 
expression) a. praescriptio in the case of Deity : what is the relation 
between a ' moral ' and an ' essential ' unity? Can there be a real 
moral unity which is not essential ? 


Theodore's almost passionate concern to make clear the reh- 
gious import of the real humanity of Jesus Christ — that there was 
in him more than a human nature, there was a human person — 
compelled him to recognise the development of the manhood of 
Jesus. When the child became capable of discerning between 
good and evil, he was quicker in moral judgment than others : 
' He had an extraordinary impulse towards what was good, 
through that union with the divine Word with whom he was 
united from above.' In this connection Theodore interprets the 
Septuagint version of Isaiah vii. 15-16 (where the Greek is not 
clear) as meaning that before Jesus came to the age at which men 
are able to know what ought to be, he was able, even as a child, to 
distinguish good from evil because he possessed a capacity beyond 
that of others : ' for, if even among ourselves we sometimes meet 
with those who, though children in years, show such wisdom as 
to astonish those who know them, how much more must the 
Child of whom we speak have surpassed all others at the same 
period of Hfe? ' Thus the divine indwelling in Jesus was unique. 
Theodore found a scriptural basis for this conviction in the 
records of the Baptism and the Transfiguration, as weU as in those 
passages in the Gospels where Jesus speaks of a unique personal 
relation to ' my Father in Heaven '. In Jesus, for the first time, 
human nature offered up to God that which it was God's purpose 
that all the children of men should offer.^^ 

Theodore's last years were troubled by controversy. When 
the Pelagian leaders found themselves deposed from their offices 
and driven from the West, they travelled to the East and sought 
sympathy with the chief hving representative of the ' School of 
Antioch '. It was after their visit that Theodore wrote his book 
' Against those who say that men sin by nature ' ; in other words, 
against the doctrine that sin is a nature which men possess, or, 
rather, which possesses men. In the last year of his Hfe Theodore 
received a visit from Nestorius, when the latter was on his 
way from Antioch to Constantinople. Among other questions, 
Nestorius had been troubled by the use of the expression * Mother 
of God ' in reference to the Virgin Mary (theotokos, of which 
term the accurate rendering is ' God-bearer '). Theodore was 


willing to admit it, provided it was also admitted that as Mother 
of the incarnate Jesus Christ she was ' Man-bearer '. 

Nestorius had been trained at Antioch, where Theodore had 
made his influence deeply felt. Nestorius was a Presbyter of 
some distinction — a popular and powerful preacher and head of a 
large monastery near the city. His importance for the history of 
Christian doctrine begins with his appointment to the office of 
Bishop of Constantinople in 428, though he held that position for 
only three years. His first proceedings indicated that he beUeved 
himself to have a heaven-sent mission to destroy ' heresy ' of every 
kind, and he succeeded, with the help of the Court, in making an 
end of the surviving ' Macedonians ', who denied the Deity of 
the Holy Spirit, and of the few Arians who remained in the city. 
Nevertheless, this ' scourge of heretics ' was soon to be condemned 
as a heretic himself. 

The controversies which arose over the teaching of Nestorius 
(and which were embittered by his arbitrary action in Constanti- 
nople and by the unpopularity of the clergy whom he had brought 
with him from Antioch) had a two-fold origin. Nestorius 
rejected the term theotokos, and, as his opponents asserted, taught 
that there were two personaHties in the incarnate Word. 

The trouble began when one of the clergy who had accom- 
panied Nestorius from Antioch dehvered a sermon in which he 
denounced the use of the term theotokos in reference to the Virgin 
Mary, which, he insisted, implied the monstrous doctrine that 
God was born of a human being. As a matter of fact, this term 
had been in use for at least a century, and the crude interpretation 
of it had been explained away. But the sermon at once aroused 
doctrinal strife, which extended when Nestorius himself dehvered 
a course of sermons elaborating and defending the grounds on 
which he repudiated the term theotokos. A number of his ser- 
mons were collected and circulated in Egypt ; and Cyril of Alex- 
andria entered into the controversy. His correspondence \\ith 
Nestorius reveals a Christology which is not free from ambiguitv 
and not entirely consistent. While affirming that the unity of 
the two natures, the divine and the human, in the incarnate Christ 
is utterly beyond our power to explain, he maintained that it was 


a union so close and organic that we may with entire truth 
believe that in Christ the two natures became one Person, but 
without ' mixture ' or ' confusion '. The two natures became 
united from the first dawn of conscious Hfe in the infant Jesus. 
Nestorius refused to accept this interpretation of the union ; and 
the third letter which Cyril addressed to him was a definite 
theological challenge, concluding with twelve ' anathematisms ' 
against the doctrines attributed to Nestorius, who rephed in turn 
with twelve counter ' anathematisms '. 

Cyril then decided to send to Rome an account of what had 
occurred, together with copies of his own letters. This was in 
effect an appeal to the Pope. Leo, who ruled in Rome from a.d. 
440 to 451, was one of the great Popes of the early ages. The 
powers claimed by the papacy in after generations were all 
impHed in his pohcy and his ideals. We see him, for example, 
acting as head of the city government ; checking AttUa the Hun 
outside the walls of Rome; preaching powerfully on doctrinal 
questions ; imposing his authority on prelates even in distant parts 
of the West. After receipt of Cyril's communications, a Synod 
was held in Rome at which Nestorius was condemned and Cyril 
was commissioned to execute the sentence. This meant that 
Cyril was given authority to depose Nestorius. In the meantime 
he had been promoting an intrigue in the Court at Constantinople 
in favour of his position ; and Theodosius was moved to call a 
General Council to meet in Ephesus in the summer of 43 1 . It was 
not a General Council in any proper sense of the word ; and what 
actually occurred was not creditable to any of the parties con- 
cerned. The Bishop of Antioch and his party were late in arriving, 
and Cyril seized the opportunity of presiding over the assembly 
without them and securing the condemnation and deposition of 
Nestorius, who had refused to attend. It must be added that 
throughout the controversy Nestorius had been unconciHatory 
and provocative. When the party from Antioch arrived in 
Ephesus, they held a Synod of their own, and, with the approval 
of the Emperor, deposed Cyril. On further consideration, how- 
ever, not unconnected with the clamour of the monks at Con- 
stantinople, Theodosius changed his mind, and approved the 


decision of the Council in deposing Nestorius, who died in 

The confusion occasioned by the two sets of ' anathematisms ' 
moved the Emperor to endeavour to effect a reconcihation 
between the two parties — Cyril and his supporters on the one side, 
and his strongest opponent, John, Bishop of Antioch, and his 
supporters on the other side. Under pressure from the Court, 
the Bishop of Antioch agreed to the condemnation of the doc- 
trine attributed to Nestorius, and Cyril sent to the Bishop a letter 
which was evidently an ' eirenicon ' and was accepted as such. 
This letter has an interest because it was not written on behalf of 
any Synod or Council. In it he states what was called the ' For- 
mula of Reconciliation '. He strongly repudiates the opinions 
falsely attributed to him — of a ' conversion of the divine into the 
human ' or of any kind of ' fusion ' or ' mingling ' of the two 
natures. The ' Formula of Reconcihation ' had been brought to 
Cyril by Paul, Bishop of Emesa, together with other documents, 
and Cyril accepted it. It ran as follows : * We confess our Lord 
Jesus Christ, only-begotten Son of God, perfect God, and perfect 
Man in his rational soul and body : in his Deity begotten of the 
Father before the ages, and in these last days the same [sic. : that is, 
the Son] in his Manhood born of Mary the Virgin for us and for 
our salvation : co-essential [homo-ousios) with the Father in his 
Deity, and co-essential with us in his Humanity, a union being 
realised of the two natures : through which we confess one 
Christ, one Son, one Lord : and through this unconfused union 
we confess the holy Virgin to be God-bearer, because the divine 
Word took flesh and lived as Man, and from this conception 
united with himself the temple which he took of her.' 

Cyril expressly declares that this union is ' ineffable ' (a mystery 
to the human intellect). The divine Word remained unchanged. 
He is for ever impassible, though in his all-wise administration of 
the mystery ' he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant ', 
and he is seen {sic) to attribute to himself the sufferings which 
befell his flesh. Thus Cyril raised the essential question of the 
kenosis. In the Incarnation the divine Word ' emptied liimself ' 
and yet remained what he had been and for ever is. It is clear 


that the primary meaning of the kenosis, to Cyril and to the leading 
Fathers of the eastern Church, was that the Incarnation is a real 
Incarnation. The divine Word took upon himself all that per- 
tained to his humanity as embodied : birth, bodily growth, 
growth in knowledge, hunger, thirst, exhaustion, suffering, 
death. The incarnate Word took upon himself all these human 
experiences, without sin; and the same incarnate Word was 
the Creator of all things, working miracles and rising from the 

Cyril was well aware of the critical importance of the question, 
how are we to understand the ascription to the incarnate Christ of 
growth in wisdom and grace as a child, and (in mature manhood) 
of ignorance in reference to a vast cosmic event in which he was 
to be the central Figure? Cyril discusses it many times. And 
yet, on the most sympathetic interpretation, we must admit that 
he was never able to get beyond appearance : the kenosis is real in 
his bodily organism, but only apparent in his divine Nature. * He 
said, I do not know, not as revealing ignorance but as revealing his 
humanity : since he allowed himself to become man, and to 
suffer in a human way all that is recorded of him, we ought not 
to be dismayed when, as man, he said that he was ignorant, 
because he bore the same body as we.' The incarnate Word, as 
divine, cannot be ignorant of anything, but he willed to appear 
ignorant, because this pertains to humanity. ' It would indeed ', 
so Cyril proceeds, * have been a marvellous thing if, being yet an 
infant, he had manifested his Wisdom in a way worthy of God ; 
but he increased it gradually according to the age of his body, and 
thus gradually made it manifest to all : and so he may be truly said 
to have increased in Wisdom.' ^^ 

The question remains, however, what was the Christological 
doctrine actually held by Nestorius himself? New Hght was 
thrown on this question when, at the end of the nineteenth 
century, scholars reaHsed the importance of a Syriac manuscript 
bearing the strange title of The Bazaar of Heracleides. It was 
found to be a Syriac translation of a work by Nestorius himself 
constituting his ' Apologia '. The title was probably chosen for 
reasons of safety. From this work it is clear that Nestorius based 


his Christology, in its purely doctrinal sense, on a philosophical 
theory which is open to serious criticism on general grounds. 
He held that in every being, indeed in every existing thing, we 
must distinguish : (i) the ousia, the essential nature of the being ; 
(ii) thephysis, the sum of the quahties constituting the individuahty 
of the being ; and (iii) tho prosopon, by which Nestorius meant the 
external manifestation of the being, by which it can be seen and 
judged. The prosopon is not to be identified with the ousia or with 
the physis; but it is not a mere ' appearance ', and therefore we 
have used ' manifestation ' as its English equivalent. How, then, 
are these distinctions to be apphed to the Person of the incarnate 
Christ ? Nestorius was convinced that ' Deity ' and ' Humanit)- ' 
are mutually exclusive terms ; they must therefore be distinct in 
the incarnate Christ, if he is perfect God and perfect Man. The 
unity is in the identity of the prosopon of Deity with that of 
Humanity : ' The prosopon of the Deity is in the Manhood, and 
the prosopon of the Manhood is in the Deity.' From the philo- 
sophical point of view, to assume a combined manifestation in one 
human form of two beings whose natures are defined by mutually 
exclusive terms is a radically unsound theory.^^ 

In opposition to Nestorius, and to Cyril, arose the movement 
known as ' Monophysitism ', affirming the one nature of the incar- 
nate Word. This technical name for the doctrine came into use 
after the Council of Chalcedon (a.d. 451). The doctrine was 
vigorously advocated by Eutyches, whose position gave him 
extensive influence among the eastern monasteries. He was a 
man of little theological learning or abiUty, and his sincerity 
became obstinacy. He was summoned before a Council imder 
Flavian, then Bishop of Constantinople. Flavian was prepared to 
deal generously wdth him; but it was impossible to move him 
from his formula, ' One Nature, after the Incarnation ' — aU 
duality being excluded by this conception of ' unity '. He could 
give no inteUigible account of the human body of Jesus, the 
embodiment of a Being in whom the divine and the human were 
not only united but were absolutely one. He laid himself open 
to the charge of ' docetism ', and he was deposed and excom- 


Cyril had died in 444, and was succeeded as Bishop of Alexan- 
dria by Dioscorus, a man of violent temperament and intense 
ambition. His aim, in ecclesiastical affairs, was to secure the 
supremacy of Alexandria in the eastern Church. As contributory 
to this end, he vigorously defended Eutyches, and instigated the 
Emperor Theodosius to summon a Council to meet in Ephesus 
in 449. Here, with help of Roman soldiers who were present, and 
of a number of fanatical Egyptian monks whom he had brought 
with him, Dioscorus terrorised aU who would have opposed him. 
Flavian died in consequence of the violence to which he had been 

Shortly before these events, the Pope, Leo the Great (justly so 
called, for he was one of the few really great Popes in the early 
ages), had written to Flavian, sending an exposition of the doc- 
trine of two natures in the incarnate Christ, the famous ' Tome of 
Leo ', which Dioscorus refused to allow to be read at Ephesus. 
This so-called ' Council ' created a dangerous division in the 
eastern Church, Egypt and Palestine, strengthened by the support 
of the Emperor, supported Dioscorus, while Rome, Asia (the 
Province so named), and Syria denotinced the proceedings of the 
Council as a latrocinhim, and protested against the acquittal of 
Eutyches and the treatment of Flavian. As the real state of the 
case became generally known, a revulsion of thought and feeling 
took place, which found expression after the death of Theodosius 
in July 450. His successor perceived that the centrahsation of 
ecclesiastical authority in Alexandria would endanger the stabihty 
of the eastern empire ; and with the co-operation of the Pope, 
a general Council was summoned, which met at Chalcedon, near 
Constantinople, in October 451, in order to put an end to the 
controversy. Here, after various documents had been read, 
including the letters of Cyril to Nestorius and to the Bishop of 
Antioch, the ' Tome of Leo ' was carefully studied, and its doc- 
trine fmally approved. 

The ' Tome of Leo ' is a document of great importance, not 
only for the history of Christian doctrine but for the history of 
the Church, and to a certain extent for the history of Europe. It 
provides evidence that the powerful influence of Rome in the 


West was extending to the East, although it was not in the East 
accepted as a source of dictatorial declarations. 

After censuring Eutyches for theological ignorance and incom- 
petence, and after affirming the divine nature of the incarnate 
Word in terms of the original Nicene declaration, Leo proceeds 
to expound the doctrine of two natures in one Person : ' The 
essential qualities of the two Natures continued and co-existed in 
one Person. . . . And to make good what was needed owing to our 
condition, an inviolable Nature was united to a nature capable of 
suffering : so that, as was needed for our salvation, there was one 
and the same Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ 
Jesus, who was capable of death in the one nature and incapable of 
it in the other. . . . Thus, in the complete and perfect nature of real 
manhood, the very God was bom, complete in His own [nature 
and attributes] and complete in ours : and by " ours " I mean 
those which the Creator formed in us at the beginning, and which 
His design was to restore — in order that the unchanging God, 
whose Will cannot be separated from His Goodness, might perfect 
His original design of mercy towards us by a more wonderful 
mystery [the Incarnation, sacramento occultiore].' 

At this point the Pope proceeds to use the words of Paul : ' He 
assumed the form of a servant, without the stain of sin, increasing 
[augens) what was human, not taking away what was divine. 
That self-emptying, by which he who was invisible made himself 
visible, and the only Creator and Lord of all willed to become 
mortal, was a condescension of mercy, not a loss of power. ... As 
the Nature (forma) of God did not take away from the nature of a 
servant, so the nature of a servant did take away from the Nature 
of God. . . . He who was incomprehensible willed to be compre- 
hended. He who exists above all time, began to exist in time. 
The God who suffers not did not disdain to be a man who can 
suffer, nor the Immortal to submit to death. . . . There is nothing 
illusory about this union : for the lowliness of manhood and the 
loftiness of Deity have their separate places [inviccm stmt). [This 
expression can only mean that the particular sayings and deeds of 
the incarnate Christ manifested at one time humanity, at another, 
Deity.] It does not belong to the same nature to say, I and the 


Father are One, and to say, the Father is greater than I. One of 
these truths without the other would not suffice for our salvation, 
for there is equal danger in beheving that the Lord Jesus Christ 
was solely and only God [tantummodo, emphatic] and not man 
[sine homine] and in beheving that he is solely and only man and 
not God [sine Deo].' ^^ 

What the Pope set forth is stated formally in the Christological 
declaration finally adopted at the Council of Chalcedon. ' We, 
following the holy Fathers, do with one consent teach all men to 
confess one and the same Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is 
perfect in Deity and perfect in Manhood : truly God and at the 
same time truly Man, of rational soul and body : co-essential with 
the Father in* his Deity, and co-essential with us in his Manhood : 
in all things hke to us, except in sin : begotten from the Father 
before all ages through his Deity, and also in these last days 
born for us and for our salvation from the Virgin Mary, the 
God-bearer {theotokos), through his Manhood. We confess 
one and the same Christ, to be acknowledged in two natures 
without confusion, change, division or separation : the distinc- 
tion between the two natures being in no respect annulled 
by the union, the essential characteristics of each nature being 
preserved and together concurring in one Person and one 
Substance [hypostasis) not separated or divided into two per- 
sons.' ^^ 

It must be admitted that the Christological declaration at 
Chalcedon was an advance. We say ' an advance ' because in 
view of the growing accumulation of confusions against which it 
was directed, it is definite enough to be reasonably criticised or 
reasonably defended. It has been severely criticised, and by the 
theologians who are by no means hostile to the Nicene declara- 
tion. Its distinctive statements constitute a doctrinal formula 
in the most technical sense of the word ' doctrinal '. Its technical 
terms are negative, not positive. These terms have no spiritual 
significance. The unity which is asserted is inexpressible in 
spiritual terms. And w^hile claiming for Jesus Christ a complete 
and perfect human nature, it imphes definitely that his human 
nature was not personal. It is noteworthy that the ' Tome of 


Leo ' recognises the need of a kenosis doctrine, though no attempt 
is made to explain it. 

We now retrace our steps, back to the early years of the fifth 
century, and pass to the West, where the influence of Augustine 
was beginning to sway Christian thought. Augustine's labours 
at Hippo (a.d. 396-430) were contemporaneous with the rise of 
theological strife in the East from conflicting endeavours to 
explain the union of the divine and human in the Person of Jesus 
Christ, after Arianism had ceased to be a serious factor in Christian 

No passage from Augustine is more significant than the remark- 
able statement in the seventh Book of the Confessions, in which he 
makes clear what he found and what he did not find in Neo- 
Platonism. (We give the extracts from the Fourth Gospel and 
from the Epistle to the PhiHppians in the Latin words in which 
Augustine quotes them.) 

' hi the writings of the Platonists ', he says, ' I found, not indeed 
in the same words, but the same truth strengthened by many 
different arguments, that in principio erat Verhum, et Verhum erat 
apud Deum, et Deus erat Verhum : hoc erat in principio aptid Deum : 
omnia per ipsum facta sunt ; . . . in eo vita est, et vita erat lux homi- 
num : et lux in tenebris lucet, et tenehrae eam non comprehenderunt. I 
read also that the soul of man, though it bears witness to that Light, 
is not itself that Light : that the Word, God Himself, is the true 
Light, which enlightens every man coming into this world, . . . 
and the world did not know Him. But that He came to His owti, 
and His own would not receive Him, yet to aU who did receive 
Him beHeving in His Name, He gave power to become Sons of 
God : this I did not find in those writings. Again, I found there 
that the Word . . . was not bom of flesh and blood, nor of the 
vdll of men, but of God. But that the Word was made flesh, 
and dwelt among us : this I did not find in those writings. I did 
indeed discover in them, though expressed in different words and 
in many ways, that the Son, being in the Fonn of the Fatlier, non 
rapinum arbitratus esse aequalis Deo, quia naturaliter id ipsum est. 
But that semet ipsum exinanivit, formam servi accipiens. in similitudi- 
nem hominum factus et hahitu inventus ut homo, humiliavit sc,factus 


ohediens usque ad mortem, . . . propter quod Deus eum exaltavit a 
mortuis : this those writings did not contain, I read also that Thy 
only-begotten Son abides above all time, with Thee : that of His 
abundance all souls receive, that they may be made blessed : that 
by participation in the Eternal Wisdom they are renewed to become 
themselves truly wise. But that at last [secundum tempus) He died 
for the unrighteous : that Thou didst not spare Thy only Son, but 
didst dehver Him up for the sake of all : this is not in those writ- 

The root of Augustine's theological answer to the question, 
' What think ye of Christ? ' is that in Christ the Incarnation was 
unique. An effective illustration is seen in a passage from his De 
Agone Christiano {On the Christian Struggle). He refers to the 
behef of those who say that ' the Eternal Wisdom of God took 
the man Jesus to Himself as the same Wisdom takes other men who 
are truly wise '. Augustine rephes : ' The Divine Wisdom, the 
Word through whom all things are made, took the man Jesus to 
Himself in a way other than the way in which He takes the rest of 
the saints. It was in order that the Wisdom of God should 
visibly appear to men. . . . For it may truly be said of all wise and 
spiritual souls that they have in them the Divine Word ; but that 
the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, can truly be said of 
our Lord Jesus Christ alone,' And when dwelling on the 
metaphor of Christ as ' The Way ', Augustine says : ' The Divine 
Christ [Christus Deus) is the home-land (patria) towards which we 
travel : the human Christ is the way by which we travel thither.' ^^ 



The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is vital to the conception of the 
Trinity in any sense usually considered orthodox. And even 
apart from its evident historic importance in distinctively Chris- 
tian thought, we may maintain that behef in man's response to the 
actual working of the divine Spirit in the world is vital to any 
theism which avoids a duahstic antithesis of the divine and the 
earthly, and which leaves open the idea and ideal of the Spirit 
as the ultimate expression of the essential communion of man \vith 

Historically, the Church found two extreme opinions which 
must be avoided : an extension of SabeUianism with its tripHcity 
of manifestations, and an extension of Arianism with its triad of 
individuals ; and the avoidance of these two extremes involved 
an explanation of the relation between the eternal Son of God and 
the eternal Spirit. 

Nevertheless, the exphcit formulation of the doctrine of the 
Trinity, with systematic consideration of the theological problems 
involved, could hardly have been undertaken until the doctrine 
of the Person and Work of Christ had been carried at least as far 
as the Nicene declaration of a.d, 325. The way was opened in 
that declaration by the simple statement ' And [we beUeve] in the 
Holy Spirit '. Athanasius maintained that the Council of Nicsea, 
though not stating a doctrine of the Spirit, yet by adding these 
words intended to equahse the Holy Spirit as divine \^'ith the 
Father and the Son.^ Here he certainly overstated his case. 
Modern students of the subject are generally agreed that the brief 
mention ' And in the Holy Spirit ' indicated the undeveloped 
doctrine of the Spirit in the ante-Nicene period, as compared with 
the words of the Creed of Constantinople : ' And in the Holy 
Spirit, Lord and Life-giver, proceeding from the Father, who 



with the Father and the Son is to be worshipped and glorified, 
who spoke through the Prophets.' This creed, wrongly described 
simply as ' Nicene '■ — though, apart from the doctrine of the 
Spirit it reaffirmed all the essentials of the original Nicene declara- 
tion — ^has been in universal use. 

The identification of the divine Logos with the eternal Son of 
God, which began, as we have seen, when the Logos doctrine 
began to find a home in Christian thought, did not lead directly 
to the doctrine of the Trinity. Professor Bethune-Baker 
observes : ' In the New Testament that doctrine [of the Trinity] 
is not at all clear ; and indeed its formula is impeded rather than 
helped by the identification of Christ, the Son of God, with the 
divine Wisdom or Logos. As long as that identification exists, we 
have a duad rather than a triad. The real doctrine of the Trinity 
only arose when some of the characteristics of the divine Wisdom 
or Logos were transferred from the incarnate Son and hypostasised 
as the Spirit of God. It was by the differentiation of Christ from 
the Wisdom of God that the doctrine of the Trinity was reached.' ^ 
The Scriptural sources of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit are rather 
wider than is suggested by this quotation. The scriptural sources 
of the doctrine are unmistakable, and even when brought 
together in the most summary way are extremely significant. 
We refer, of course, to the Greek Old Testament and to the New 
Testament as the Fathers read them. 

The Hebrew word which we transliterate as nephesh is almost 
uniformly rendered psyche in the Greek Old Testament and in 
the New Testament, and ' soul ' in the Enghsh versions. It 
reaches its highest rehgious significance in the Psalter, where it is 
used as a paraphrase for the personal pronoim, but in a special 
sense — sometimes as a consciousness of human hmitations and 
failures — but more often as the expression of those higher factors 
in human nature which make possible man's appeal to God and 
communion with Him. The Hebrew term ruach, on the other 
hand, is almost uniformly rendered pnetima in the Greek and 
' spirit ' in the Enghsh versions. The higher ranges of meaning 
given to this word in the Greek Old Testament may be briefly 
summarised as follows, (i) The Spirit of God is creative (Genesis 


i. 2; Psalm civ. 30); the Spirit of God is omnipresent (Psalm 
cxxxix. 7) ; by His Spirit the heavens are beautiful Qob xxvi. 13) ; 
His Spirit ' has made me and given me life and understanding ' 
(Job xxxii. 8 and xxxiii. 4). (ii) His Spirit moves in the hearts 
and minds of individual Israelites (Ezekiel xxxvi. 27; Psalm h. 12 
and cxliii. 10) ; the Spirit moves the prophet to preach good tid- 
ings (Isaiah Ixi. i) ; the Spirit of God moves in the Messiah and in 
the Servant of God (Isaiah xi. i and 2, and xhi. i). (iii) The Spirit 
guides the people as a whole (Isaiah Ixiii. 10; Nehemiah ix. 20), 
above all in the ideal future (Isaiah xxxii. 1 5 and xhv. 3 ; Ezekiel 
xi. 19; Joel ii. 28). 

None of the great reforming prophets of the eighth century 
(and after) belonged to the earher groups of ' prophets ' (many of 
them bands of excited devotees) to whom reference is sometimes 
made. Amos disowned them. Micah and Hosea denounced 
them. In Deuteronomy xiii and Jeremiah xiii they are treated as 
deceivers, or as men self-deceived, claiming to have been given 
revelations through dreams ; and in Deuteronomy other charac- 
teristics are named : ' There shall not be found among you . . . any 
one who uses divination, one who practises augury, or a sorcerer, 
... or a consulter with a famihar spirit, or a necromancer ' (x\'iii. 
10 and 11). 

The range of meaning given to the term pneunia in the New 
Testament extends far beyond aU that is impHed in the sacred 
books of the Jews. It is suggested in the following references : 
The word could be used of the wind in motion, and. in the same 
verse, of the Holy Spirit (John iii. 6 and 8). It could be used of 
spirits of evil, or, without reference to evil, of a bodiless spirit, an 
apparition (Luke xxiv. 27). In reference to mankind, it is the 
source of the inner disposition and tendency of the mind (Luke 
ix. 55); as human, it may be ' wilHng ' as contrasted with the 
' weakness ' of the body (Matt. xxvi. 41). Then, as the range of 
meaning rises, it is the Holy Spirit of God (I Thess. iv. 8) and a 
supremely divine gift to men : ' You have received no slavish 
spirit that would make you fall back into fear ; you have received 
the spirit of sonship : and when we say. Father, Father, it is tliis 
Spirit bearing witness with our own spirit that we are children of 


God ' (Rom. viii. 15). The Spirit descended in a unique way on 
Jesus (Matt. iii. 16 and John i. 33) ; and his teaching, his words of 
instruction and warning, were ' through the Holy Spirit ' (Acts i. 

2). _ 

In Paul's hymn to Love, the word ' Spirit ' is not used ; but the 
meaning cannot be mistaken : ' Make Love your aim, and then 
set your heart on spiritual gifts ' (I Cor. xiv. i). The spiritual 
gifts here spoken of are different ways in which the Spirit is active 
in human hfe. The decisive passages are in I Cor, xii. 4-1 1 and 
28-30, and Rom. xii. 6-8. All the gifts and endowments which 
Paul names here are gifts of the same Spirit and gifts of God. 
They are endowments of varied character, extending over a wide 
range of human Hfe ; giving to men mental capacities of the high- 
est order and power to acts of heroism ; and among them he 
does not hesitate to name * helps in administration ' and acts of 
' service ' (diakonia) . And yet it is the same Spirit that can raise 
human hfe to such a height that even the body may become a 
' Temple of God '. We cannot look to Paul for a ' theology of 
the Holy Spirit ' or for any ' explanation ' of how the Spirit of 
God is related to the eternal Christ. His passionate faith springs 
from a two-fold source : ' For us, there is one God the Father, 
from whom all things come, and for whom we exist : and one 
Lord Jesus Christ, by whom all things exist, and by whom we 
exist ' (I Cor. viii. 6 ; Moffatt's rendering ' for whom we exist ' 
seems preferable to the ambiguous ' unto whom ' of the R.V.). 

In the Fourth Gospel there is no reference to any ' extraordinary ' 
gifts like those the Hmitations of which Paul discusses so care- 
fully in the fourteenth chapter of First Corinthians. In the 
Fourth Gospel the Spirit is the indwelling paradetos (no single 
Enghsh word can be given as an equivalent : it suggests or imphes 
protection, guidance, and teaching). The ' eschatological ' pas- 
sages in the first three Gospels are replaced — or perhaps we may 
say interpreted — by a subHme doctrine of the spiritual return of 
Christ. The Pauhne ideal of the Spirit as the divine source of all 
worthy human gifts is concentrated into an ideal of the Spirit as 
the giver of Life — Life as moral fellowship with God. And 
above all, the Pauline ideal of the Spirit as the giver of new saving 


knowledge becomes the centre of the Johannine theology. The 
Spirit of Truth (the words are used six times) is a divine essence 
actually communicated from God to man, and ' Truth ' is the 
reality of the divine Life revealed historically in Christ. For us 
men, the ' Spirit of Truth ' is the spirit of Christ. But the para- 
cletos, the divine guide, is not only identical with the spiritual 
presence of Christ : the Spirit is another paracletos sent by Christ 
to interpret and extend the revelation already given. And at the 
supreme height and depth of reahty, before all else, stands the 
immortal word : ' God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must 
worship Him in spirit and in truth.' 

The group of writers known as the ' ApostoHc Fathers ' have 
many references to the Spirit, but they do not carry us beyond the 
words of Paul. Clement of Rome, in particular, fmds it necessary 
to appeal to him as the source of a guidance bearing apostoHc 
authority. There is no doctrine of the Trinity, in any later mean- 
ing of that doctrine ; but the three Names are freely used as equally 
divine. When we turn to the Apologists of the second centurv', 
there are only a few references to the Spirit as a divine agency^ 
different from the divine Word (the Logos). Theophilus of 
Antioch appears to be the first to use the term Trinity (Trias), but 
the Trinity wliich he contemplates is of ' God and His Word and 
His Wisdom '. Athenagoras is rather more definite : the Spirit 
is ' the bond of union between the Father and the Son '. But it 
seems clear that the Apologists are so pre-occupied ^\dth the doc- 
trine of the divine Logos and its value for their interpretation ot 
the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, that their ideas, so far as they 
are at all systematic, reveal httle or no endeavour to expound a 
theology of the Holy Spirit. Among their numerous differences 
in detail, there are certain convictions common to them all, includ- 
ing Justin Martyr. God is the transcendent Source of all Being : 
and the whole divine activity — creation, self-revelation, provi- 
dence—is mediated by the Logos, coming forth from God for 
the purpose of creation, permeating the world, sporadically 
illuminating philosophers and prophets, and finally becoming 
incarnate in Jesus Christ. The result is, that when the Spirit is 
named as distinct from the Son, the nature and work of the Spirit 


are spoken of in terms similar to those used in reference to the 

In Irenaeus, though we find expressions which, it is true, could 
afterwards be explained as ' anticipations ' of the later doctrine of 
the Trinity, there is no evidence that in his own mind he con- 
templated that doctrine in its developed form. In an important 
passage — one of those which indicate an advanced stage in the 
formation of ' The Rule of Faith ' — Irenaeus emphasises behef in 
' One God the Father, Maker of the heavens and the earth and 
all that is in them : in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was 
made flesh for our salvation : and in the Holy Spirit, who by the 
prophets foretold the birth, sufferings, death, and resurrection of 
Christ, and his return in glory to judge the righteous and the 
wicked ' [Adversus Haereses, I. x. i). He did not confine the 
activity of the Spirit to the past. In his popular work Exposition 
of the Apostolic Preaching, he says : ' The Holy Spirit, through 
whom the prophets spoke, and the fathers learnt the things o£ 
God, and the faithful were led into the paths of righteousness, was 
manifested in a new way, reconciling men to God,' The * new 
way ' is the incarnation of Christ ; but the question remains, how 
is the Holy Spirit of God related to Christ the eternal Son of God. 
From the point of view of practical rehgion, however, there is no 
doubt : ' By degrees men advance, first by the Spirit ascending to 
the Son, and then by the Son to the Father.' As we have seen, 
Irenaeus deprecates speculation about the internal relations of the 
Being of God.* 

We now turn to Alexandria. The two foundations of Origen's 
philosophical theism are : (i) the transcendent unity of the divine 
Nature, and (ii) the eternity of creation as an essential divine 

The notion that there ever was a time when the divine Nature 
was inactive is irreconcilable with the very idea of Deity. There 
must always have been objects of the divine Wisdom and Good- 
ness. Thus there never was a time when God was not a Creator. 
He did not begin to create after spending ages in idleness. There 
are difficulties, owing to the hmitations of our human minds : 
' but one truth rises before us : that the Being of God the Father is 


eternal, and eternally finds expression in His only-begotten Son, 
who is also called the Wisdom of God and the Word of God ; and 
through that Wisdom and Word the divine creative power went 
forth '. This is the first principle of Origen's theology, and from 
this point of view he formulates a trinitarian conception of Deity. 
Origen never doubted that a doctrine of the Holy Spirit is vital 
to Christian theism ; and the scriptural warrant for that doctrine, 
as we have seen, is evident and is extensive. Origen was well 
aware of the importance of the question which then arises : the 
distinction of the functions or activities of the Father, the Son, and 
the Spirit.^ 

There can be no separation of being and no temporal succession 
in the field of work of the only-begotten Son and the Holy Spirit. 
Origen's fundamental conviction about the place of the Spirit in 
the Trinity is seen in many passages in his commentary on the 
Fourth Gospel. For example : after referring to alternative 
opinions, Origen affirms : ' We are justified in beheving that 
there are three hypostases — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — and 
that it is truer and more reverent to beheve that the Spirit is the 
most exalted of all beings created by God the Father through 
Christ the Word. I think that this is the reason why the Spirit 
is not spoken of as the Son of God. . . . The Spirit needs the Son of 
God for his existence, enabling liim not only to exist but to be \\ise 
and just and all that the Spirit has through participation in the 
nature of Christ. And I beheve that the Spirit grants, to all who 
by participation in him [in the Spirit] are accounted saints, the 
substance of the gifts which come from God : so that the sub- 
stance of these gifts becomes a power from God, is ministered to 
men by Christ, and enters into men by the Spirit.' ^ Thus, in 
Origen's version of the doctrine of the Trinity, the Son is from 
the Father alone, and the Spirit is from the Father through the 
Son, supreme above all created beings, but included among them. 
The apparent contradiction, ' from the Father ' and yet created 
by the Son, arises because, except in relation to the self-existent 
Deity, Origen simply never entertained the ' All or None ' 
antithesis of the ' created ' and the ' uncreated '. The di\ine 
creative Will is from the divine essence, otherwise it would not be 


a divine Will. It is noteworthy that with special reference to the 
doctrine of the Trinity, Origen's later critics (Jerome in particular) 
ought at least to have attempted a better interpretation than the 
one over which they attacked Origen. But they left the real 
problem unsolved, and were content with a formula. 

As the years of the third century moved on, it became evident 
to Christian thinkers in the East that further interpretation of 
Christian Theism required the use of some of the terms current 
in the constructive thinking of the Greek philosophical schools. 
Justin, as we have seen, had attempted to do this, but, like the 
second-century Apologists in general, he had not avoided the 
assumption of a ' second God '. Two of the Greek terms in 
particular came to be of fundamental theological importance : we 
may transhterate them as ousia and hypostasis. The philosophical 
usage of the term ousia is due to Aristotle, in his philosophical 
tract known as The Categories. Common sense recognises the 
distinction between what a thing essentially is and what it, so to 
speak, ' happens ' to be. Abstractly regarded, ousia means 
' essence ' ; more concretely regarded, the ' essence ' of a thing 
consists of those characteristics which, being individuaHsed in it, 
make the thing what it ' really is '. But Aristotle distinguished a 
' primary ' and a ' secondary ' apphcation of the idea of ' essence ' : 
the former referring to any individual in which the essence is, as it 
were, embodied; the latter to the class to which the individual 
belongs because with all the other members of the class it has the 
essential characteristics named. Then the further question inevit- 
ably arises : whether the class is nothing more than a set of 
individuals thought of together because they happen to be alike 
in some important characteristics, or whether they are properly 
classed together because their essential quahties actually depend 
on a real principle uniting them. Whatever ambiguities may 
have arisen over the term ousia, the ambiguities of the term hypo- 
stasis were much more extensive. Reference to the last edition 
of ' Liddell and Scott ' will show the variety of meanings (having 
httle logical connection with one another) which had come to be 
attached to it. From the period of Greek Stoicism, it was coming 
into use as a philosophical term, first as referring to the actual 


existence of a thing with a ' constitution ' of its own, and then to 
what underlies the object perceived by our senses; in this latter 
sense, hypostasis became indistinguishable from ousia. But it was 
evident that a distinction must be made between ousia as a 
' universal ' which was common to the individuals of a class and 
hypostasis as that which makes an individual what he is, or consti- 
tutes his individual existence. It was evident also that care was 
required in the application of these distinctions to the conception 
of a Trinity, if the assumption of three Gods ' was to be avoided. 

The Greek thinkers treated the distinction of the three Names 
from a point of view different from that of the West as repre- 
sented by Augustine. They started with what we have ventured 
to describe as the philosophical conception of the divine Father- 
hood (sec above, page 73). God the Father is the Source of all 
existence, reahsing in Himself complete and perfect Being, and 
therefore dependent on notliing beyond Himself. The Son is 
Son because he is ' begotten ' from the Father : being ' begotten ' 
is the characteristic of the Son, who is co-essential [homo-ousios) 
with the Father. The characteristic of the Holy Spirit is to be 
' sent forth ' from the Father, Being ' sent forth ' is the exact 
meaning of the Greek term, awkwardly rendered in EngHsh by 
' procession '. Thus, both the Son and the Spirit derive their 
being from the Father, and the derivation is eternal. The typical 
Greek conclusion was that the Son is immediately from the Father, 
and the Spirit mediately from the Father through the Son. 

In certain passages Athanasius seems to identify the meaning of 
hypostasis with that of ousia. But his fmal conclusion is evident : 
' When we read /^m he who is [the LXX version of Exodus iii. 14] 
we understand nothing else than the perfect and complete essence 
[ousia) of Him who is, and that His essence is to be almighty God 
and Father ' ; and the Son, though ' begotten ' is none the less 
co-essential with the Father.'^ Therefore the question of how the 
Holy Spirit is related to the Father and to the Son arises directly 
from the idea and ideal of divine Sonship ; and the answer given 
by Athanasius is what we have called the ' typical Greek conclu- 
sion '. All our knowledge of the Spirit is derived from the Son. 
The Spirit is sent and given by the Son as his own, and in this 


sense is equal to the Son; but none the less the work of the 
Spirit is the gift of God through the Son. 

It has been suggested that the struggle carried on by Athanasius 
for the faith that the Son is co-essential with the Father had the 
result that in his mind the whole question of the work of the 
Spirit was a secondary question, especially as in his early work De 
Incarnatione Verhi Dei there is no reference to any special activity 
of the Spirit. Even the miraculous birth of Jesus is attributed to 
the divine Logos [De Incarnatione, VIII. ix). But to assume that the 
doctrine of the Holy Spirit was for Athanasius a kind of ' after- 
thought ' would be a serious misunderstanding. His letters to 
Serapion, Bishop of Thmuis in the Delta, make this clear.^ In 
these letters the ' heresy ' in view is that associated v^th the name 
of Macedonius, who died about A.D. 360 after he had been Bishop 
of Constantinople, where his record was a disgraceful one. The 
theory said to have originated with Macedonius was adopted by 
some who, while adhering to the Nicene declaration about the 
Person of Christ, affirmed that the Spirit was a created being, 
differing from the angels only in ' degree '. Some of these men 
were called ' tropici ', or, as we might say, ' metaphoricals ', 
because they interpreted as ' tropes ' or metaphors all those 
passages which could not be reconciled with the idea that the 
Spirit was a created being. The solution affirmed by Athanasius 
is simply based on the principle that the Spirit is from the Father 
through the Son. The salvation, the deHverance from ' death ', 
which was the purpose of the Incarnation, is essentially related to 
the work of the Spirit : ' It is through the Spirit that we are said 
to become partakers of God, because through the Son the Spirit 
is given to the disciples and to aU who beHeve in the Son of God ' 
(Letter I, sections 23, 24, and Letter III, section i). 

The monotheist motive of the homo-ousion, that there is no 
' created ' Son in the divine nature, seemed to Athanasius to 
exclude equally the idea of a ' created ' Spirit. The Trinity, if it 
is a fact in the divine nature, is an eternal fact : the change of an 
original duaHty into a Trinity by the addition of a created nature is 
an idea not to be entertained by Christians. As the Trinity ever 
was, so it is now. Such statements, and others could be quoted. 


show that Athanasius had not arrived at any definite conception 
of the internal relations between the three hypostases. He is 
content to affirm their unity and equal Deity ; and he deprecates 
speculations about the inner nature of Deity. On the other hand, 
the functions which he assigns to the Spirit are those of the Son 
over again. The ' blasphemy against the Holy Spirit ' is against 
the divine nature of the Son (Letter IV, sections 19, 20). It is 
evident that in the time of Athanasius the doctrine of the Spirit 
had not been studied with the thoroughness which we fmd after- 
wards in the Cappadocian Fathers and in Augustine. Even in the 
latter part of the fourth century, Gregory of Nazianzus dwelt on 
the unsettled condition of beHef on this question. In the ' Ora- 
tion ' numbered XXXI (the fifth of the so-called ' Theological 
Orations ') he observes that ' some men believe the Holy Spirit 
to be a divine Energy, others a created being ; while others, from 
reverence for Scripture, are uncertain what to call the Spirit, 
because Scripture makes no definite statement about it '. 

The three Cappadocian Fathers start from the declaration of 
Nicaea, accepting the term homo-ousios in its original sense, and 
they foUow Athanasius in his ideal view of the purpose of the 
Incarnation — to reveal to man the divine Image in Christ and to 
restore the divine Image in man.^ But they were confronted by 
the extreme Arianism of Eunomius, and by the need of setthng 
Greek terminology. Their discussions involve, more or less 
implicitly, the logical question of the nature of those relations 
which express real connections between facts, and which therefore 
are as real as the facts or beings related. This is seen in the way in 
which Basil of Caesarea opens his work on the Holy Spirit. He 
urges that the examination o( terms used in theology is of the first 
importance : ' To examine even small words is not a futile task, 
even if the questions raised may seem futile to some persons. . . . 
As it is with the arts and crafts, so it is with true rehgion, which 
grows slowly by small increments : and he who despises the first 
elements will never attain to fullness of wisdom.' This is intro- 
ductory to a discussion of the Greek prepositions used in stating 
the trinitarian conception of Deity. Basil gives special attention 
to those used in such statements as by Paul : ' One God the Father. 


from whom are all tilings, . . . and one Lord Jesus Christ through 
whom are all things.' He concludes that the different prepositions 
indicate not differences of nature but differences in mutual relation 
and in operation.^*^ 

Basil perceived the importance of distinguishing between 
ousia and hypostasis. The difference is, first, between the individ- 
ual, or the ' particular ', and the ' general '. So far, the distinction 
in language is between a general name or class-name and an 
individual name ; and if appHed to the interpretation of the Trinity 
in that sense, it leads at once to the assumption of three Gods, 
Such possibilities are excluded, when Basil proceeds to explain his 
meaning by reference to human nature : ' Each of us shares in a 
common nature, which is his ousia, while through his own quahties 
he is this or that individual.' It is evident that if this is illustrative 
of the divine Trinity, it imphes a rejection of the theory that a 
class simply is nothing but a set of individuals which happen to 
resemble one another in important respects. It implies that when 
a classification is based on essential quahties of the individuals 
concerned, these essential quahties are, so to speak, the embodi- 
ment of a real principle on which they depend. In its theological 
reference, Basil's distinction means that the ousia is the common 
divine nature of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ; and the hypostasis 
refers to the special characteristics of each. The question of these 
' special characteristics ' is vital for the trinitarian interpretation of 

God the Father, the Source of all being, creates through the Son 
and perfects through the Spirit. This is the divine order, as it 
were, the ' downiward ' order. For us, finite created beings, it is 
the ' upward ' order : ' The way to the knowledge of God is from 
one Spirit through one Son to one Father.' Basil attaches great 
importance to the words of Paul: ' No man can say "Jesus is 
Lord " but in the Holy Spirit.' Beyond this, Basil can only say 
that the trinitarian formula is at best ' a symbol and a reflection of 
the truth, not the truth itself '.^^ 

In the Cappadocian Fathers we can trace the results of the point 
of view from which Greek orthodox theologians interpreted the 
doctrine of the Trinity. Their conviction of the absolute unity of 


God is unwavering ; and their endeavour is to explain — so far as 
our human hmitations allow — in what way the Three are One, 
with the Father as the Source from whom the Son is ' begotten ' 
and the Spirit ' proceeds '. Their theology is seen in its most 
developed form in the writings of Gregory of Nyssa (Basil's 
brother) ; and in what follows we shall be referring specially to 

The purpose of the Incarnation was to arrest the process of 
disintegration which was the result of sin proceeding from the 
Fall. The Incarnation was no anti-natural intervention in an 
otherwise abandoned world. The immanence of God in the 
world shows that the ' plan of redemption ' was from the begin- 
ning involved in the Wisdom and Goodness of God. ' In things 
which concern our hfe here, there are some without which the 
end could not be reahsed, though the beginning as contrasted 
with the end seems insignificant : as when we imagine the con- 
trast between the grown man and his first origin in the act of 
physical generation, without which nevertheless mature growth 
could never have taken place.' In hke manner, ' that which 
happens in the great resurrection, incomparably vaster though it 
be, has its beginnings and its causes here. ... In saying this, I am 
not thinking only of the remoulding and refashioning of our 
composite bodies. ... I am thinking of the restoration to a blessed 
and divine condition, free from all shame and sorrow. . . . Not all 
who are granted a return to existence at the resurrection \\dll 
return to the same kind of life. . . . For those whose vices have 
become inveterate must enter into a condition fit for their state, 
as a furnace is fitted for metal which is to be purified of dross : so 
that, their vices being purged away, after long ages their natures 
may be restored pure again to God.' ^^ 

No merely external act of redemption could have sufficed : man 
must be touched in order to be saved. Moreover, if Christ had 
not a complete human soul, the soul of man would not have been 
redeemed. Hence Gregory makes the doctrine attributed to 
Apollinarius a special object of criticism. Jesus Christ had a 
human will; he grew or increased in knowledge; he lacked 
knowledge of the future ; and he submitted (though without 


yielding) to temptation. As we have seen, Gregory held a view 
of the kenosis which reheved some of the difficulties of behef in 
two complete natures in the incarnate Christ. But ' it is entirely 
in keeping with his divinity that he who thus entered into our 
nature should accept that nature in all its quahties ; . . . for since 
the whole of human nature had been defiled, a purifying power 
was needed to penetrate the whole ; . . . and one thing above all is 
worthy of the majesty of God — to do good to those who need it '. 
He did not exclude our nature from communion with Himself 
' fallen though that nature is as the result of sin ', 

Therefore the Deity of Christ is central in the doctrine of the 
Trinity. But the distinct existence of the Holy Spirit is not 
questioned. It is no mere after-thought. In his two tracts De 
Communibus Notionihus and Quod non sint Tres Dei {On general 
conceptions or logical universals and That there are not Three Gods) 
Gregory faces the question which had been opened up by his 
brother of Caesarea, and he explores it further. ' If Peter, James, 
and John are three men, why not admit three Gods ? ' His funda- 
mental reply is that the Name ' God ' when used in its philosophical 
reference connotes essence (ousia), not distinct individuahty. In 
reference to Deity, and to mankind, it is reasonable to maintain 
the unity of the ousia in the individuals. Individual men are 
distinguished by variable quahties, relations, circumstances; but 
the distinctions between the divine hypostases (or ' Persons ', to 
use the conventional language of western theology) express rela- 
tions within the divine nature which are constant and eternal. 

The differences between individual men have led to the term 
ousia being used in the plural ; but, strictly speaking, the ousia is the 
same in aU individuals : as when — to use an entirely modern 
illustration' — in biological classifications the. term homo sapiens is 
employed. Here Gregory, as we have observed, is following his 
brother of Csesarea in a doctrine which had a long history and 
became a subject of keen controversy many centuries later, under 
the name of ' logical reahsm '. Stated abstractly, it means that 
when individuals can be classed together because they have 
certain important characteristics in common, this is because these 
common quahties are the expression of a real principle, a factor 


pervading and operative throughout the members of the class. 
AppHed superficially, this leads to absurd results ; but apphed in 
the case of quahties which are essential to the individuals concerned, 
it is found to be an important theory. An example of its ethical 
import may be seen in the saying, that : ' Human ministers of 
Justice may fail, but Justice, never.' In other words. Justice is a 
real principle, an actual factor, in the ' nature of things '. The 
various actions and characters which are just, are so because, and 
only because, they partake of, or share in, the real principle of 
Justice. Justice would still be real, even if no just acts were done 
by men and no just human characters existed, though in such a 
case Justice would, so far, have had no embodiment in human 
life. If ' logical reahsm ' is affirmed in an extreme form, as it was 
by at least one prominent mediaeval theologian, then the ' univer- 
sal ' is assumed to be the sole reahty, with the individuals as transi- 
ent expressions of it, and ' logical realism ' becomes metaphysical 
monism, or, in its theological aspect, pantheism. To attribute 
such a doctrine to Gregory of Nyssa would, of course, be absurd. 
But in some of his statements he goes so far as to imply that the 
use of the term ' men ', in the plural, is erroneous ; in strict logic 
we should speak not of this or that man, but of this or that hypo- 
stasis of the nature ' man '. However, he concludes that the 
actual correction of the contrary habit of speech is not possible : 
' How can you persuade any one not to speak of human beings 
who have the same essential nature as so many men? Habit is 
always hard to change. We do not go far wrong in speaking 
thus of finite beings, since no harm results from so doing. But in 
the case of the divine nature, the same habit would be a source of 
dangerous error [the assumption of three Gods],' ^^ 

The only difference recognised in the Trinit)^ is in the order of 
derivation. God the Father is ' unbegotten ', that is, dependent 
on nothing beyond Himself; the Son and the Spirit are derived, 
the Son immediately from the Father, the Spirit mediately from 
the Father throuo-h the Son. This is the final conclusion of the 
orthodox eastern Church on the origin of the Holy Spirit, 
technically described as ' procession ', a conclusion formed by 
taking together the words of the Fourth Gospel (xv. 26), ' The 


Guide (or Helper) whom I will send to you from the Father, 
. . . who proceeds from the Father ', and the words of the Epistle 
to the Galatians (iv. 6), ' God sent forth the Spirit of His Son.' 

We now retrace our steps, back to the later years of the second 
century, and to North Africa, where the first Christian Latin 
Hterature was produced (apart from the ancient Latin versions 
of the New Testament) and where Latin was still a hving language. 
Our first knowledge of Latin Christianity is through Tertulhan. 
His dates can be only approximately determined; but his con- 
version to Christianity may be dated within a few years of the 
end of the second century. He soon began to write in defence of 
the Christian rcHgion as he understood it. 

It may fairly be said that his most important theological work 
is the book Against Praxeas : because, although in form it is a 
criticism of modaHst Monarchianism, the cardinal terms {una 
substantia, trespersonae), which he continually uses in his exposition 
of trinitarian Christology, came into general use in the West. 
The special ground of his criticism relates to the assumption made 
by all the Modahst theologians, namely that behef in one God 
necessarily impHes that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three 
manifestations of one and the same being, but revealed in three 
successive periods. Tertulhan rephes : ^^ ' We beheve that whUe 
they come equally from one Being, in unity of substance, the 
natural order of origination, which we call dispensatio and the 
Greeks economia, must be admitted' — the order of origination 
which imphes the unity of the Trinity, while Father, Son, and 
Holy Spirit are three : three, however, not in individuahty but in 
rank and relation, not in substance but in mode of action, not in 
power but in divine characteristics : and yet of one status, one 
substance, and one power, because it is one God from whom 
these are derived and named respectively Father, Son, and Holy 
Spirit {non statu sed gradu, nee substantia sed forma, nee potestate sed 
specie : unius autem substantiae, unius status, et unius potestatis, quia 
unus Deus ex quo et gradus iste et forma et species in nomine Patris et 
Filii et Spiritus Sancti deputantur) .' This reference to ' gradus ', 
' forma ', and ' species ' explains Tertulhan's emphatic declara- 
tion : ' Whatever the substance of the Word was, that I call a 



Person, and I claim the name of Son for him, and as Son of God I 
recognise him as second from the Father.' Perhaps TertuUian 
was not entirely satisfied with the legal terms which he had been 
using in his endeavour to explain the doctrine of the Trinity. 

In like manner he affirmed the Deity of the Spirit, ' one God 
with the Father and the Son: hence the Spirit is the third from 
[not with] God and His Son '. The following is a typical state- 
ment — and it must be remembered that ' we ' refers to those who 
follow Tertullian in his understanding of the ' Montanist ' doc- 
trine : ' We, who by the Grace of God understand the intention 
of the scriptures, being faithful disciples of the divine paradetos 
[guide, or helper] and not of men, affirm . . , three divine Beings, 
according to the dispensation which is capable of numerical expres- 
sion. Thus the Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy 
Spirit is God.' ^^ 

Notwithstanding these brave w^ords, TertuUian has left two 
serious questions unanswered, (i) How is the Holy Spirit related 
to Christ the Son? In reference to the Annunciation (Luke i. 35) 
Tertullian declares : ' the Spirit of God is the same as the Word : 
for when John says, the Word was made flesh, we understand the 
Spirit also; and so here, we understand the Word under the 
name of the Spirit : for the Spirit is the substance of the Word, and 
the Word is an activity of the Spirit, and the two are one '. 
Other statements to the same effect might be quoted, (ii) He has 
not avoided a subordination not only in the order of revelation to 
mankind but in essential being. Even if we set aside his purely 
metaphorical illustrations, we find it clearly stated that the Father 
is the originating principle of the Son and the Spirit, and therefore 
holds in relation to them a certain superiority : ' The Father is 
wholly essential Being [substantia) : the Son is derived from the 
Whole as part thereof {portio totius) : the Father is greater than the 
Son, as One who begets, who sends, who acts, is greater than the 
One is begotten, who is sent, through whom He acts.' The 
precise meaning of the word portio is not clear : ' One who is God 
from God will be Deity so far as He came from the essence of God 
Himself, thus being from the essence of the Whole and part of the 


With regard to the duahty (not ' duahsm ') within the divine 
nature, TertuUian's meaning is clear. ' At first, God was alone, 
being to Himself His own universe — alone, because there was no 
being beyond or outside Him : yet not alone, because He had 
within His own nature His Reason or Thought. . . . When first 
God willed to produce all that in His Thought and Wisdom He 
intended. He first produced the Word, in order that through the 
Word all things should be made, which had already been made so 
far as the divine Reason was concerned {quantum in Dei sensu).' 
Here the real meaning of the distinction between the immanent 
Word and the externaHsed Word is clear. What existed already 
in the divine reason became/or us, under our human hmitations, a 
matter of sense-perception and memory (see above, page 64). 
This must not for a moment be taken to imply any lowering of 
the power of the Spirit. Vital to TertuUian's Christian faith was 
his conviction that the Spirit was still working in the life of the 
Church ; and this led to his interest in Montanism.^'^ 

Some details about the local origin and early history of the 
Montanist movement are uncertain. That it arose in Phrygia in 
the middle years of the second century; that it claimed the 
inspiration of the Spirit for Montanus and his ' prophets ' and 
' prophetesses ' ; that it found expression in that region in fanatical 
exhibitions of ecstasy and similar phenomena ; that it looked for 
the ' New Jerusalem ' to be established there ; all this is beyond 
reasonable doubt. These facts, however, do not explain the spread 
of the movement. The background of it was in the far-reaching 
changes which were pervading the Churches, and which under the 
conditions of the time were inevitable. The canon of the 
Scriptures was closed, and the work of the Churches in relation to 
them was only one of interpretation. Divine revelation was 
becoming a thing of the past. The churches were becoming ' a 
Church ' with an organisation and with traditions. And an 
organisation of such extent must of necessity in some sense 
' accommodate itself to the world ' in which its destiny was to hve 
and grow. In the difficult and critical years of the second century, 
when the Gnostic movement was threatening the existence of 
Christianity, and Christological questions of the first importance 


were being pressed, the authority of the Church was taking form 
in defmite ways of doctrine and discipline. Without accepting 
Hamack's severe judgment on the facts, it is not to be denied that 
the changes to which we have referred created a vague and general 
feeling of unrest. Tertulhan shared this feehng, which in one of 
his temperament became defmite and forceful. The working of 
the spirit, he urged, cannot be confmed to one age. At times, he 
even identified the Church with the Spirit : ' The visible Church 
is the Spirit of the undivided Trinity. . . . The w^hole number of 
those who accept this faith are counted as the Church of Christ. 
The Church will indeed forgive sins, but it is the Church of the 
Spirit speaking through a spiritual man.' Thus Tertulhan com- 
pletely abandoned the position which he had vigorously defended, 
as we have seen, in his early tract De Praescriptione HaereticormnP 
Nevertheless, it must be said that if to be a ' Montanist ' means 
to be a disciple of Montanus, then Tertulhan was not a ' Mon- 
tanist '. The whole question, and for him the first question, was 
the activity of the Spirit ; and this is the ground of his appeal 
when he writes, often with characteristic violence of language, on 
such subjects as the Christian duty in times of persecution, or in 
relation to mihtary service, or to pagan amusements or customs in 
general; or again to questions relating to marriage and fasting. 
On the other hand, we find that those of his writings which have 
had important effects on the development of Christian doctrine 
in the West were produced during his so-called ' Montanist 
period '. And he did not uncritically accept the ' visions ' of any 
Montanist as by themselves decisive of truth. An interesting 
example of this is seen in his book On the Soul {De Anima, IX) 
when he speaks of the ' visions ' of a Montanist woman : ' We 
have now with us one who has been granted gifts of revelation, 
which she experiences in visions during the sacred ritual of the 
Lord's day in Church. She converses with angels, and sometimes 
with the Lord Jesus Christ. . . . Whether it be in the reading of 
scripture, or in the singing of Psalms or in the offering of prayers — 
in all these rehgious services matter and opportunity are afforded 
her of seeing visions. . . . After the people have departed, she 
reports to us what she has seen in visions : for all her communica- 


tions are examined with the greatest care, in order that their truth 
may be ascertained.' 

The consequence of TertuUian's work was that Augustine found 
in general use a terminology bearing the authority of a tradition 
originated by Tertulhan : ' una substantia, tres personae.' Augus- 
tine was not satisfied with the use of these terms in reference to 
the doctrine of the Trinity ; but his reverence for Tradition led 
him to bequeath to western Christianity a view involving the use 
of these terms. Some of the expressions which he uses occur in the 
trinitarian clauses of the ' Athanasian ' creed ; but whether the 
authors of that creed had any adequate understanding of the ideas 
underlying Augustine's terminology is another question. He 
repeatedly emphasises the fact that on questions relating to the 
inner nature of Deity, human language must be inadequate : ' We 
speak of three Persons, not in order to affirm that conception, but 
to avoid being silent, in order that we may be able to say in some 
degree what we cannot say perfectly : for the nature of God is 
more truly conceived than expressed, and exists more perfectly 
than His nature is conceived.' ^^ 

The first step to an understanding of Augustine's doctrine of 
the Trinity is to distinguish the idea of Deity and the trinitar- 
ian development of that idea. The idea of Deity, conceived 
abstractly, is the conception of pure Being, absolutely one and 
absolutely self-dependent : not ' infra-personal ' and not ' im- 
personal ', but not ' a Person ' ; a ' substance ', or rather, ' as the 
Greeks say, ousia '. But when, in Christian theism, the abstract 
conception is completed, it ceases to be abstract. It becomes the 
conception of Being expanding and completing itself, expanding 
without temporal succession in an order of causal dependence, in 
all its complete perfections, eternally and equally in three ' Per- 
sons ', Father, Son, and Spirit. ' So complete is the equahty in 
the Trinity that the Father is not greater than the Son in His 
divinity, nor the Father and Son together greater than the Spirit ; 
nor is each single Person, whichever of them it be, less than the 
Trinity itself (VIII, Preface). 

Thus, the Augustinian conception of the Trinity is that of a 
divine Nature capable of being conceived apart from the 'Persons' 


but never realised or never existing apart from them. This 
conception of ' PersonaHty ' is evidently and entirely different 
from the conception current in ordinary human language and 
from any legal conception of ' PersonaHty '. Augustine some- 
times expresses dissatisfaction with the theological use of the term. 
Thus, he observes (V. lo) that most Latin writers, who can speak 
with authority, ' speak of one Substance and three Persons, 
because they could not find any better way to express in words 
what they understood v/ithout words ' ; and he adds that it may 
be necessary to say ' three Persons ', not because the Bible says it, 
but because the Bible does not contradict it. He is prepared to 
leave the word ' Person ' in use in connection with the doctrine 
of the Trinity (VII. 8). 

With regard to the term Substance, Augustine is rather more 
definite. The term suggests to him (as it does to us) a being 
possessing quaHties which may change— a being which, in the 
terminology of Logic, is ' a subject of attributes '. It is ' impious ' 
to apply such a conception to Deity, as if God were not His own 
Goodness, as if Goodness were in Him as in a subject. Augustine's 
point, in this and other passages, is quite clear. The whole con- 
ception of subject and attribute ' is utterly inappHcable to Deit)\ 
The divine attributes are not quahties ' possessed ' by God as a 
wdse man ' possesses ' the quahty of wisdom. To say that God is 
wise means, when properly understood, that God is Wisdom. 
' It is clear, therefore, that God is not properly called Substance, 
He is properly and truly called by the more usual term Essence. 
However, whether He is called Essence, by which term He is 
legitimately and truly called, or Substance, as He is improperly 
called. He is so called in reference to His owti Nature ' (VU. lo, 
abridged). The term ' essence ' need not give rise to difficult)' : 
* as wisdom (the abstract term) is conceived through those who 
are wise, and knowledge (the abstract term) from those who 
know, so from existence (esse) is conceived what we call Essence ' 
(V. 3). This is more fully stated in a later passage (VII. 2) : 'As 
being wise is to Wisdom, and having capacity is to Power, and 
being just is to Justice, and being great is to Greatness, ... so is 
existence itself to Essence.' In other words, in the case of finite 


beings, we must distinguish * essence ' and ' existence ' ; but in 
God essence and existence are one. Augustine points out that in 
human nature the cardinal virtues, though they differ in meaning 
and apphcation, are not separate from one another : thus, mental 
and moral courage carry other virtues v^ith them. But in God 
there is a unity not only of quaUties w^ith one another but of quaH- 
ties with Being : in God to be is to be all these quahties in a com- 
plete and perfect form, ' a manifold simphcity and a simple multi- 
phcity ' (VI. 6 : si quid de ilia simplici multiplicitate vel multiplici 
simplicitate dixeris). The interconnection of the cardinal human 
virtues is an incipient analogy in reference to the divine attributes, 
where existence and essence are one. 

Although he does not formally discuss the question, it is evident 
that Augustine held a theory of fundamental importance about 
the reahty o£ relations. It is a commonplace to point out that our 
experience consists of individuals, objects, and events, related in 
innumerable ways. It is not always obvious that the relations are 
as real as the objects related. This conclusion may be carried 
through, to relations which enter into the innermost nature of 
reahty, and it is of the first importance in reference to what may 
be defined as internal relations, arising from the essential nature of 
the beings related. And when we think of God the Father in 
relation to God the Son, the relation is eternal. ' The words are 
used to express a reciprocal relation^ — a relation of each to the 
other. To be the Father and to be the Son are not the same : but 
the difference is one not of essence but of mutual relation (V. 6 : 
ad invicem et ad alterutrum dicuntur).' Hence his behef in the place 
of Love in the Trinity. Though in each of the three ' Persons ' 
the whole Trinity is concentrated, we may think of a divine inter- 
communion within the Trinity : ' There is one God loving him 
(Christ) who is from Himself, and one Christ loving Him from 
whom he is, and there is Love itself (VI. 5). Augustine then 
asks, ' if that Love is not substantia, how is God substantia ? ' Here 
it is difficult to acquit him of assuming what is to be proved — so 
far as ' proof can be thought of in this subject. His question 
implies the need — to use Tertulhan's expression — o£ a. praescriptio : 
what is meant by substantia"? The term must be understood 


in the sense which Augustine himself gives to it, namely, 
' essence '. 

Augustine's question therefore means that the essential internal 
relation among the three ' Persons ' is Love in its ultimate ideal 
reaUsation. He finds the first beginnings of this in the union of a 
group of individuals moved by a common worthy aim, a union 
of spirit (VI. 3). In relation to mankind and the world, all divine 
activity is of the whole Trinity, and the mutual relation of the 
Three is (to express it in technical terminology) internal and 
convertible. They are One, because absolute Deity is reaHsed and 
fulfilled in each, in their mutual ideal Love. Wherein, then, does 
the difference consist? The only answer, from the position de- 
fended by Augustine, is that though all divine activity is of the 
whole Trinity, it is revealed to us, necessarily owing to our 
human Hmitations, in differences of operation. And since in 
every field of divine activity the whole essential nature of Deity is 
active, the conclusion is, not indeed a ' modahst ' doctrine (this is 
excluded, both logically and spiritually), but a Trinity of modes of 
operation. Whether Augustine would have approved the con- 
clusion as thus stated is another question. In any case, the Church 
fell back on the traditional distinction between the Father as 
' unbegotten * and the Son as ' begotten ' — a non-convertible 

The ' proof-texts ' on which Augustine dwells at the end of his 
great work are from the New Testament; but even the New 
Testament, believed to be throughout infalhble, presented diffi- 
culties. He found it necessary to reconcile text \vith text, and 
dogma with Scripture. But he did not attempt to base the doc- 
trine of the Trinity directly and immediately on Scripture texts : 
he endeavoured to explain the bibhcal statements in the Hght of 
that doctrine as he held it. Most of his second Book is occupied 
with a study of the visions and voices ascribed in the Old Testa- 
ment to direct divine agency. His conclusion is that in most 
cases the voices and visions were wrought through the ministrv'' 
of angels, manifesting themselves in audible or visible forms, but 
themselves acting under direct divine impulses. 

Augustine searches creation for analogies or * vestiges ' of the 


Trinity. The results are extraordinarily interesting for a study of 
his psychology. From the theological point of view, it is evident 
that in the spiritual nature of man he found the ' image ' of the 
Trinity v^hich satisfied him most. The illustration which he 
seems to value most of all is in the ' trinity ' of the human mind, 
' remembering, understanding, and loving itself. The meaning 
of the term ' memory ' is widened so as to include consciousness of 
self; and ' loving itself ' is cleared of all merely egoistic associa- 
tions : ' the mind is present to itself so that it can understand its 
own thinking, and the mind and its thinking be united by love of 
itself (XIV. 14, 15). He well knew that ' three faculties belong- 
ing to one human person cannot represent the three divine Per- 
sons ' (XV. 45). The trinity in the human mind becomes an 
' image of God ' only when the consciousness of self is so far 
deepened that it becomes also a consciousness of God. This was 
his own ideal. ' So far as Thou hast made me able, I have sought 
for Thee. I have desired to see with my understanding what I 
beheve, and I have laboured and argued much. My strength and 
my weakness are in Thy sight : preserve the one and reheve the 
other. My knowledge and my ignorance are in Thy sight : 
where Thou hast opened to me, receive me as I enter : where 
Thou hast closed to me, open to me as I knock. May I remember 
Thee, understand Thee, love Thee.' 



The importance to be attached to the Christian idea and ideal of 
the ecclesia has resulted in a comparative neglect of a fact equally 
important for an understanding of the experiences of the first 
Christian behevers. Whatever conclusions we may or may not 
hold, about the supernatural happenings recorded in the second 
chapter of the Book of Acts, the fundamental question remains : 
w^hat w^as the permanent and enduring result of this ' coming of 
the Spirit ' ? It was the emergence of a new experience of 
* fellowship ' {koinonia). A very early expression of this experi- 
ence is found in Acts ii. 42 (where we must read, not as in the 
A.V., ' to the teaching and fellowsliip of the Apostles ' but ' to the 
teaching of the Apostles and to the fellowship ') : ' the disciples 
devoted themselves to the instruction given by the Apostles and to 
the fellowship.' The symbolism of the fellowship was the breaking 
of bread, and common prayer, and shortly afterwards was ex- 
pressed in the mutual sharing of possessions. It was a community 
of spirit creating a community of Hfe. The intense reaUty with 
which this community was felt fmds expression in such statements 
as in Acts iv. 32 : ' the multitude of those that beheved had but 
one heart and one mind '. 

Tliis was the ideal of Paul. God had called them into the 
fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ, the fellowship named after 
him, ' the fellowship of the Spirit ' (I Cor. i. 9, Phil. ii. i). In the 
famihar words of II Cor. xiii. 14, ' the communion of the Holy 
Spirit ', the same Greek word is used [koinonia). His prayer is 
that the fellowship created by the Spirit may grow and extend, 
through new groups of behevers, among whom the differences 
that loomed so large in contemporary hfe would become insignifi- 
cant. The fellowship, in Paul's ideal, is not hmited — as it was at 
first— to men and women belonging to the same race and with 



inherited and kindred religious traditions. His first great struggle 
was to unite in one FeUowship of the Spirit, Jews and Gentiles, 
hitherto separated by an impassable gulf, and then to gather 
together groups of behevers united by a Spirit where there was 
neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, bond nor free. This is 
at once the work of the Holy Spirit of God and of the risen 
Christ : ' You are the body of Christ, and severally members of 
it ' (I Cor. xii. 27) — members of Christ through the FeUowship ; 
* As the human body is one and has many members, all the mem- 
bers together forming one body, so it is with Christ. . . . So, too, 
for all our members, we form one body in Christ, and we are 
severally members one of another ' (I Cor. xii. 12, Rom. xi. 5). 

The term ecclesia comes into use as the ideal of Fellowship, more 
and more widely reahsed, calls for organisation and leadership — 
the growth in the Christian communities of what in modern 
terminology is called a ' corporate consciousness '. 

Here we are concerned only with the use of the term ecclesia of 
the early communities of Christian behevers, becoming organised 
as such. In the Old Testament, which the early Christians had in 
the scrolls of the Greek version (the ' Septuagint '), the distinctive 
and most important use of the word is to express an idea springing 
from the intensely theocratic interpretation of Hebrew history 
which continually emerges : for example, the whole commimity 
[ecclesia) of Israel (Numbers viii. 9, and in many other passages 
bearing a kindred reference). 

Turning to the New Testament, we find the term used of the 
tumultuous assembly which filled the market-place in Ephesus 
(Acts ii. 32 and 41) ; and in v. 39 of the same narrative it is used of 
a regular and lawful meeting of the citizens. But the rehgious 
significance of the word, due to its use in the Septuagint, deter- 
mines its usual meaning in the New Testament, where it is con- 
stantly used of an existing local Christian community, such as the 
Church in Corinth. So understood, the word could be used in 
the plural, as it is many times by Paul. Perhaps the most signi- 
ficant of all his references is in II Corinthians — his daily burden, 
' the care of all the churches '. Such communities, in different 
places, but with kindred behefs and hopes, animated by the same 

t88 leaders of early christian thought 

spirit of fellowship, became conscious of themselves as a corporate 
whole and were spoken of as ' the Church '. The result was a 
double use of the term : thus, in Phihppians iii. 6 we read that 
Paul persecuted the ecclesia, apparently a general apphcation of the 
word, while in iv. 5 a particular ecclesia is referred to. So in 
Colossians i. 1 8 and 24, * the ecclesia ' is declared to be ' the body 
of Christ ', while in iv. 15-16 a particular ecclesia ' which is in their 
house ' is referred to. In the four Gospels the word occurs only 
twice, in Matt. xvi. 18 andxviii. 17. The latter reference, which 
we assume to be authentic, shows that the fellowship had acquired 
a certain authority. 

We cannot accept the view maintained and defended v.ith 
learning and abihty by Charles Gore — not to mention more recent 
theologians' — that Jesus actually intended to found a community 
having a mixed membership, with officers having authority, and 
that he was training his disciples to form the nucleus of such a 
community, which he foresaw would — and intended that it 
should — ^ become a corporate body charged with solemn cere- 
monies and legislative decisions, and having a priesthood to keep 
it ' one, holy, and cathoHc ' } This interpretation of the facts 
gives rise to many difficulties : in particular, the inherent opposi- 
tion between Judaism and Christianity would have been evident 
from the very beginnings of the movement. Why were the first 
believers so slow to recognise the inevitable separateness of the 
Christian Gospel from Jewish ecclesiasticism ? (We emphasise 
the term ' Jewish ecclesiasticism ', wliich, especially as it existed 
in the time of Jesus, was an entirely different influence from that 
of the rehgion of the Old Testament.) Why was it necessary for 
Ignatius to warn the Churches against men who went about 
advocating a Judaising Christianity? ffis words do not lack 
emphasis. ' It is monstrous to speak of Jesus Christ and to 
practise Judaism ', for ' Christianity did not beheve in Juda- 
ism, but Judaism in Christianity '. 'If any man propounds 
Judaism to you, do not Hsten to him : such persons are like 
tombstones over the dead, on which are inscribed only the 
names of men.' ^ 

On the other hand, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that 


Jesus created a Spirit which he foresaw would create communities 
irreconcilable with those fostered by ' the Jewish Church '. A 
growing aUenation can be traced in the Gospel records, imtil in the 
end ' the chief priests ' reahsed that if they could not destroy Jesus 
and his work, the result would be the destruction of everything in 
the ecclesiasticism for which they stood and on which their official 
existence depended (see especially Mark xv. i, 3, lo-ii). The 
culmination is seen in the Fourth Gospel. Among those openly 
hostile to Jesus, the ' High Priest ' or ' the chief priests ' are 
mentioned twelve times ; the ' Pharisees ' or the ' chief priests and 
Pharisees ' seventeen times ; and ' the Jews ' (without any other 
qualification) at least thirty times. 

We have seen reason to beheve that the first results of the ideal 
of Jesus, moving in the minds of Paul and his fellow- workers, are 
seen in Christian communities with no bonds of organisation other 
than what was necessary for order to be maintained in a fellowship 
based on brotherly love, and in a Hving faith in Jesus Christ as 
' Lord and Saviour '. Through this faith, they were convinced 
that the Spirit was still working among them, and through this 
conviction of the actual present working of the Spirit, and the 
human need for leadership, the primitive ministry arose. For 
the existence and character of this primitive ministry there is 
abundant evidence in the New Testament. It appears not to have 
been a permanently locahsed ministry ; but Paul beHeved that in 
principle it was of divine appointment. ' God has set some in the 
ecclesia, firstly apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers ' (I 
Cor. xii. 28) ; and, in one of the latest Epistles (if not Pauhne, 
then by a disciple of Paul) : ' He gave some to be apostles, and 
some prophets, and some pastors and teachers, . . . that we should 
be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about by CYtry 
wind of doctrine ' (Eph. iv. 11, 14), 

The use of the term ' apostles ' in these and kindred passages 
shows that in the Apostohc Age the terminology was very ' fluid '. 
No general theory can be based on identity of names used in 
different circumstances in the Apostohc Age. But the passages 
from the epistles to the Corinthians and to the Ephesians, quoted 
above, and in particular the reference in the latter passage to the 


purpose of the ministry, show that these workers were ' evangel- 
ists ' in the modern meaning, or meanings, of this term, and that 
their work included teaching. Among these workers, the 
' prophets ' are specially named. The man who ' prophesies ' is 
superior to the man who ' speaks with a tongue ' (whose rehgious 
emotions find expression in a flow of unintelligible words, or 
words intelligible to no one but himself) ; and again, ' let only 
two or three prophets speak, while the others exercise their judg- 
ment upon what is said ' (I Cor. xiv. 3 and 29). In the Book of 
Acts the work of the prophets is prominent : xi. 27, ' prophets 
from Jerusalem ' ; xiii. i , ' prophets and teachers in the Church at 
Antioch ', five being named, including ' Saul ' ; xv. 31, ' prophets 
at Antioch ', two being named. 

Hence the urgency of the question, How to recognise false 
prophets and true prophets? The answer is, 'by their Hves '. 
Not every man who speaks in the name of the Spirit is a prophet, 
' but only if he have the ways of the Lord ; from his ways, there- 
fore, the true prophet and the false prophet shall be recognised. . . . 
Even if a prophet teaches the truth, and does not do what he 
teaches, he is a false prophet.' These statements from the Didache 
were even at the time, much too like ' platitudes ' ; but Hermas 
{Mandates, ch. xi) is more definite : ' The man who only appears 
to have the Spirit is self-assertive, talkative; ... if he is not given 
money, he does not prophesy; ... he seeks out the doubtful- 
minded, and the empty-minded, and speaks only to gratify their 
desires ; test therefore by his Hfe and works the man who says that 
he is moved by the Spirit.' 

The later the date of the Didache, the more important is its 
evidence regarding the Christian ministry, unless we adopt the 
extreme view that it originated from some obscure ecclesia ' in a 
corner ' in Egypt, and that it is of no value for questions about the 
contemporary Churches as a whole.^ Setting this aside, we find 
in the Didache evidence that the ' prophetic ' ministr)% the 
evangeHcal missionary ministry, continued after a locahsed and 
more permanent ministry had arisen in the Christian communities, 
that the two worked side by side, but that the work of teaching was 
beginning to be transferred to the local leaders of the community. 


And, in addition to the work of teaching, the need of leadership 
in the sense o£ oversight to secure a necessary minimum of regular- 
ity and order had been felt, and had led to practical results : 
' Appoint for yourselves Bishops and Deacons worthy of the Lord, 
men upright and proved, for they too render to you the service of 
the prophets and teachers ' [Didache, ch. xi). The writer adds 
that they are not to be disregarded; ' they are to be honoured 
along with the prophets and teachers '. There is no suggestion 
that the ' Bishops ' here referred to held an office of sacramental 
authority transmitted from the original Apostles. The name 
signifies the kind of work done — having episcope or oversight (com- 
pare the marginal notes in the Enghsh Revised Version on the 
New Testament usage of the term, Phihppians i. i, I Timothy iii. i 
and 2, I Peter ii. 35). The picture, if we may so put it, in the 
Didache is that of the Christian ministry in a transitional state. 

The occasion which prompted Clement of Rome to write at 
length to the Church in Corinth was at bottom one of discipline 
and order. ' The Apostles knew . . . that there would be strife 
over the responsibihties of the leaders' office [the " overseers "]. 
For this reason they appointed their first converts, and gave 
instruction that when they had passed away, other approved men 
should succeed to their administration ' (ch. Iv). The office- 
bearers are the Bishops and Presbyters and Deacons; but with 
regard to the kind of work done, the two former names are 
synonymous. The writer claims no official authority for himself; 
he writes on behalf of the ecdesia — ' the Church in Rome to the 
Church in Corinth '. Indeed, he seems to have regarded the 
community as the authority (' What is ordered by the people ', 
ch. Hv). In the Church in Corinth certain men had been turned 
out of their episcope. ' It is a grievous sin to have driven from their 
oversight men who have reverently offered the prayers of the 
congregation. . . . We see that you have displaced certain men 
from the ministry which they have carried on without blame. . . . 
It is shameful to have it reported that the ancient Church in Cor- 
inth should make sedition against its Presbyters, through the 
intrigues of a few persons. . . . Let the flock of Christ be at peace 
with its duly appointed Presbyters.' It is evident that before the 


end of the first century the Presbyters were in a position of effec- 
tive oversight, and the attempt of a few to arouse a movement 
against them was regarded as ' sedition \^ Clement appeals to 
the organisation of an army ' under our rulers ' (the Roman 
government). Taken rigidly, the illustration is entirely inconsis- 
tent with what he had said about the relation of the leaders to the 
Christian community ; but probably he intended it only to illu- 
strate the need of organisation : ' All are not prefects, nor rulers 
of thousands or of hundreds ; . . . but each man in his own rank 
executes the orders given to him. The great without the small 
cannot exist, nor the small without the great. There is a kind of 
mixture in all things, and therein is utihty.' 

Thus, before the end of the first century the practical problems 
of leadership were becoming more urgent; but ' Bishop ' and 
' Presbyter ' were still two names for the same office. The fourth- 
century Fathers were aware of this. Jerome, in particular, called 
attention to the fact and emphasised it, in his epistles numbered 
69 and 170, and in his commentary on the Epistle to Titus. The 
principal passages to which he appeals are : Acts xx. 17 and 28 (the 
Presbyters whom the Spirit had made Bishops, Greek ' overseers ', 
in the Church in Ephesus) ; Phihppians i. i (where the natural 
inference is that ' Bishop ' includes ' Presbyter ') ; I Timothy 
iv. 14 (where the spiritual gift was transmitted ' when the Presby- 
tery laid hands upon you ') ; and I Peter v. 2 (where the Presbyters 
are said to be ' exercising oversight '). The island of Crete seems 
to have been a difficult field for Christian work ; and the qualifica- 
tions of a ' Bishop ' (' overseer ') are named as an additional in- 
centive to Titus to appoint ' Presbyters ' in the Churches in the 
island. Apart from this special case, the references which we have 
given can only be understood as showing that the work of the 
Presbyters was entrusted to them by the local ecclesia. 

The next movement in this history is one the importance of 
which can scarcely be exaggerated : the differentiation of the 
office of Bishop from the office of Presbyter. The need of 
religious leadership created the need of one responsible individual 
as leader. This was the view of Jerome : ' When afterwards one 
Presbyter was chosen to preside over the rest, this was done to 


prevent personal strife and schism. . . . The Presbyter appointed as 
Bishop would be one of their own number, chosen by themselves 
for a higher position.' Thus it was possible, and at least occasion- 
ally necessary, for a local Bishop to be a bond of intercourse and 
co-operation with other Churches, with regular conferences of 
neighbouring Bishops for coimsel. 

These earher Christian communities have been compared with 
contemporary pagan confraternities on the one hand, and with 
Jewish synagogues on the other. That there were points of 
resemblance in both cases need not be disputed ; but, as a matter of 
historical fact, the organisation of the Christian communities 
proceeded by a path pecuhar to themselves. Starting from the 
simplest form of union, they framed their ministry to serve their 
own needs. We turn therefore to Ignatius of Antioch. 

Ignatius in his seven Letters speaks not as a historian describing 
what had taken place, but as a prophetic preacher dwelling on 
urgent needs. He had an ideal view of what the Episcopate 
might become. To him, Christianity is a Gospel of personal 
salvation; but communion through meeting together is essential 
to it. Thus the behevers become * feUow-initiates with Paul ' ; 
and when they meet together frequently, ' the powers of Satan are 
cast down, and his evil comes to nought in the concord of your 
' faith '. Therefore, ' move in harmony with the mind of God, for 
Jesus Christ, our inseparable Life, is the mind of the Father '. 
Then comes the ideal touch : ' Even as the Bishops, settled in the 
frirthest parts of the world, are one in the mind of Christ ' (Ig- 
natius, To the Ephesians, ch. xii, xui). His insistence on the prin- 
ciple of the authority of the Bishop shows that he did not fmd it 
everywhere reahsed. He makes no reference to the office of the 
Bishop in writing to the Romans or to the Phihppians. He found 
that the office of the Bishop was generally recognised, but urgent 
guidance, persuasion, and advice were needed to secure that what 
he beheved to be their legitimate authority should also be recognised. 
Every Church is and must be a community of which the Bishop is 
at once leader and ruler. The ministry which he had in view, 
though it was a ministry of spiritual and saving truth, was also one 
of regularity and order : ' Do nothing without your Bishop, but 


be obedient to the Presbyters; ... in like manner, respect the 
Deacons, . . . even as they respect the Bishops as being a type of the 
Father, and the Presbyters as the Council of God ' (Ignatius, To 
the Trallians, ch. ii and iii). The purpose is at once rehgious and 
practical: the sacredness of order, not the sanctity of' orders'. 
We say ' the sacredness of order ', in view of such a passage as 
this : ' Do ye all study obedience to God, and respect one another. 
. . . Let there be nothing among you with power to divide you. 
. . . Do not attempt to think anything right for yourselves apart 
from others ; let there be one prayer in common, one mind, one 
hope in Jesus Christ. . . . Hasten to come together, all of you, as 
to one Temple, even God [the text is doubtful], as to one Altar, 
even Jesus Christ, who came forth from the Father. ... Be obedi- 
ent to the Bishop and to one another ' [To the Magnesians, ch. iii, 
vii, xiii). 

Ignatius apparently did not contemplate a general union of the 
many individual churches into one Church, a union maintained by 
ecclesiastical officers and creeds ; this belonged to the future, and 
in large measure was inevitable, because of the activities of 
' heretical ' movements — ^in particular, Marcionite and Valen- 
tinian Gnosticism — whose victory would have been the destruc- 
tion of all that was valuable in Christianity. As we have seen, 
his main purpose was to secure effective recognition of the impor-' 
tance of the episcopal office for the individual community. The 
separate communities are to be united by a common faith and 
common hopes, and to be made known to one another by mutual 
visits of representatives and friends ; but he could hardly have 
failed to see that the Bishop must become the principal organiser 
of such intercourse if it was to be effective and not merely casual. 

In the writings of Irenaeus we fmd further indications of the 
direction in which the organisation of the Churches was moving. 
It would be futile to attempt to fasten on Irenaeus any theory of 
the identity of the offices of Bishop and Presbyter. But it is note- 
worthy that in relation to the past he uses the term ' Presbyter ' for 
the leaders of the Church, especially for those who were respon- 
sible for the preservation of the apostoHc Tradition — referring to 
them almost ip the way in wliich we refer to ' the Fathers ' (the 


passages are collected and translated by Lightfoot and Harmer, 
op. ciL, pp. 554 and following). For Irenaeus, especially in his 
attack on the ' Gnostic ' claim to the possession of a ' secret ' 
Tradition, what was of supreme importance was the preservation 
of the continuous line of apostohc truth. ' We ought to Hsten 
to the Presbyters, who are in the Church, who have the succession 
from the Apostles, . . . who with their successors in the Episcopate 
received the sure gift of the Truth ' (Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 
IV. xxvi, 2). He had already spoken of the Apostles having 
appointed in the Churches Bishops whose succession can be 
traced in an unbroken line ; but the responsibihty of the Presbyters 
seems to have been specially for the security of the Tradition. 
There are a few passages where the terms ' Bishop ' and ' Pres- 
byter ' seem to be interchangeable, though without the suggestion 
of any general view of the historical relation between the two 
offices : for example, ' Where the free gifts [charismata) of the 
Lord are placed, there we must learn the truth, among those in 
the Church who have the succession from the Apostles ; . . . these 
guard our faith ' (IV. xxvi, 5 : the immediately preceding passage 
shows that the ' Presbyters ' are referred to). 

The essentials of the Tradition, as we have seen, could be and 
were stated in brief summaries, not always verbally identical, but 
identical in all essentials ; and to these we look for the ancestry of 
what is now knov^ni as ' The Apostles' Creed '. Irenaeus had 
convinced himself that the unity of the Churches consisted in 
their fideHty to the apostohc Tradition; and the rejection of this 
was the radical vice of the Gnostic systems : ' When we refer 
these men to the Tradition which had its origin through the 
Apostles, and which is guarded by the succession of the Presbyters 
in the Churches, they repudiate the Tradition and declare that 
they know better than the Presbyters and even than the Apostles : 
they value their own self-importance and self-love more than the 
unity of the Church ' (Irenaeus, III, ii. 2). Hence Irenaeus is led to 
declare that to be outside of the Truth is to be outside of the 
Church : the latter is a consequence of the former [qui sunt extra 
veritatem, id est, qui sunt extra ecclesiam, IV. xxxii. 7). 

With regard to the ' unbroken line ', Irenaeus observes : ' We 


are able to enumerate those whom the Apostles appointed to be 
Bishops, and their successors, down to our own time {usque ad 
nos) ', but, he adds, ' because it would be a very lengthy task to 
enumerate the succession in all the Churches ', he concentrates on 
Rome, ' the Church founded by the Apostles Peter and Paul ' 
(III. iii. I and 2). It must be remembered that this reference to 
' the successions ' does not imply a succession of consecrator and 
consecrated, but a succession of occupants of the same office. 
That office was increasing in importance with the passage of time : 
nevertheless, originally it was not an ' apostohc succession ' in the 
later meaning of the term. The security of the deposit of the 
Faith was guaranteed by apostolic successions. TertuUian is at 
one with Irenaeus in his appeal (before he embraced ' Montanism ') 
to the churches founded by the Apostles : ' The Apostles founded 
churches in every city, from which the rest of the churches have 
derived the transmission of their faith and the seeds of their doc- 
trine, and are daily deriving them in order to become churches. 
Every kind of thing must be classed according to its origin. 
Therefore these churches . . . form but one primitive Church 
founded by the Apostles, from which they all derive : so that all 
arc primitive, and all are apostoHc' ^ 

The Bishop is the representative of each church, so much so that 
the Church itself is regarded as the guardian of the Truth. The 
expressions used by TertuUian suggest the meaning soon to be 
attached to the term ' cathoHc ' : no longer a geographical or 
international universality, but a fixed attribute implying ' ortho- 
doxy ' as opposed to ' heresy ', and conformity as opposed to 

The famous statement of Irenaeus about the position of the 
Roman Church (III. iii. 2) needs to be interpreted in the light of 
the literature of the period, and not only in the Hght of later 
theological presuppositions. The passage, for which we have only 
the Latin translation, is as follows : Ad hanc enim ecclcsiam 
propter potentiorem principalitatem necesse est omncm convcnire ecclc- 
siam, hoc est, eos qui sunt undiquejideles, in qua semper ah his qui sunt 
midique, conservata est ea quae est ah apostolis traditio.^ ' To this 
Church, on account of its central position, it is necessary that the 


whole Church — I mean the faithful from, all parts — should resort : 
[this Church] in which the Tradition, which has come down from 
the Apostles, is preserved by those from all countries.' If 
Irenseus had even contemplated the supremacy of the Roman 
Church in the sense afterwards maintained, would he have con- 
cluded this statement in words so weak and vague ? The essential 
fact is this : the statement is an argument from the position and 
reputation of the city of Rome, which was a commonplace 
among the historians and hterary men of the Hellenistic age. If 
the word ' primacy ' is to be used at all, it is in the sense that Rome 
was the centre of contemporary culture as well as of business and 
commerce. A scientific physician like Galen, a historian hke 
Diodorus, a rhetorical essayist like Athenseus, found in Rome an 
' epitome of the civiHsed world 'J In reference to the Christian 
Tradition the ' commonplace ' yields a natural interpretation. 
What Irenaeus means is that to Rome, as the centre of the empire. 
Christian beHevers from all parts came together, and not only did 
the Roman Church preserve the Tradition of the founders, but 
her Tradition was reinforced by that of all the Churches repre- 
sented there. 

We may summarise the conclusions advocated and defended by 
Irenaeus and TertuUian. The churches — largely through the 
serious challenge of Gnosticism ' and to some extent the challenge 
of Montanism '^ — had collectively become aware of the problems 
of authority and cathoHcity, and through this had become con- 
scious of themselves as ' The Church ', starting from the records 
and epistles contained in the New Testament, and resting on the 
Tradition of the churches founded by Apostles, the content of 
which was summed up in the ' Rule of Faith ', and which was 
preserved unbroken by the succession of Bishops. 

Cyprian of Carthage, whose episcopate marked an epoch in the 
history of the Church, belonged to the generation immediately 
following TertulHan. He came of a wealthy and popular pagan 
family. At the age of thirty-five, in a.d. 245, he was converted, 
baptised, and appointed to the office of Presbyter. After the 
death of the Bishop of Carthage, the pubHc opinion of the plehes 
(as we should say, of the laity ') called him to the office. They 


would take no refusal, and Cyprian reluctantly consented. Thus, 
in his case, the acclamation of the plebes superseded any further 
process of election. The consent of the other Bishops would be 
given at his consecration, although opposition was organised by a 
small group of Presbyters, who promoted a faction against the 
authority of Cyprian. The usual procedure over the appoint- 
ment of a Bishop, ' the custom observed by almost all the pro- 
vinces ', was for the choice to be made by the neighbouring 
Bishops, with the support (the suffragia) of the laity, and ' the 
Judgment of God ' (this probably refers to the reHgious ceremony 
of consecration) : ' All the neighbouring Bishops of the same pro- 
vince should meet together, among the people for whom the 
Bishop is to be ordained, who know his manner of Hfe. . . . This 
was done at the ordination of our colleague Sabinus, by the 
suffragia of the whole brotherhood, and by the judgment of the 
Bishops who met together in their presence' ^ 

A year after the appointment of Cyprian, the persecution 
organised by imperial decree of Decius broke out, and lasted from 
early in 250 to the summer of 251. It is evident, from the letters 
of Cyprian as well as from other sources, that after the ' long 
peace ' of the previous forty years, the number of the ' lapsed ' — 
who had ' sacrificed to the gods ' when ordered to do so by the 
local Roman official^ — was very large, much larger than the 
number of the ' confessors ' (who had survived the various kinds 
of imprisonment then inflicted) and of the martyrs. The number 
of the ' lapsed ', their efforts to be received back into Communion, 
the resulting strife between the advocates of rigorism and the 
advocates of moderation, the question of Baptism in relation to 
' schismatics ', and the ' schism ' led by Novatian from Rome, 
were a heavy burden on the episcopate of Cyprian. 

Novatian, a Roman Presbyter with a numerous following and 
an able theologian, expected to be consecrated Bishop of Rome 
when the appointment had to be made in 25 1 ; but ComeUus was 
chosen as Bishop. Novatian then appears at the head of a part)^ 
opposed to any kind or any degree of concession to the ' lapsed ' ; 
but personal feeling entered in beyond any question of principle, 
and Novatian was consecrated as rival Bishop of Rome, The 


opponents of Cyprian in Carthage formed a ' Novatianist ' party 
with its own Bishop. This was a ' schism ' in the special sense of 
the term — that is, an organised body advocating secession on 
grounds not of doctrine but of what were asserted to be the needs 
of ecclesiastical order and discipline. 

Cyprian's position was based on his unquestioned conviction 
that ' outside the Church there is no salvation '. Outside the 
Church {extra ecclesiam) there can be no sacraments. ' Schis- 
matic Baptism ' is null and void — it is not Baptism at all. The 
question remains, however — what precisely is meant by ' outside 
the Church ' ? This question became urgent when Augustine 
was dealing with the Donatist ' schism '. It appears that for 
Cyprian this question had only one answer, in the case of the 
' Novatianist ' sect : they were entirely ' outside the Church ', 
although they were known to be theologically orthodox. 
Nevertheless, apart from its comphcation with merely personal 
antagonisms, the case against Cyprian was a strong one. If the 
Sacraments are ' holy ' in themselves, if the influence of the Spirit 
is conveyed through them, they are not made more holy, nor is 
the power of the Spirit more surely effective, through the minister- 
ing individual. It is Christ who baptises ; and when the Trinit)- 
is invoked, or the name of Christ, the faithful behever receives 
supernatural benefit. This position has been generally accepted, 
so far as the moraHty or the private opinions of the Minister are 
concerned. Professor S. L. Greenslade has called attention to 
its unqualified statement in the twenty-sixth of the Articles of the 
Church of England, entitled ' Of the Unworthiness of the 
Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacrament ' ; and 
he observes : ' The argument that the invocation of the Divine 
Name and promise necessarily brings Baptism to the behever is 
attractive, but not conclusive, at least without further elaboration 
[explanation?], but it overlooks the possibihty that the promises 
are only attached to Sacraments within the Church, . . . and that 
the human minister, though his personal behef and morals are 
irrelevant, must have authority to act as a minister of the Church, 
of Christ in his Church, Article XXVI in fact is expressly 
speaking of ministers within the visible Church. . . . To say that 



God will do nothing for anyone outside the Church, is great pre- 
sumption; " God is not tied to the sacraments " {Deus non alli- 
gatur sacramentis). But to say that He will not act sacramentally 
[the itaHcs are ours] except within the Church, if unprovable, is 
at any rate not derogatory to His goodness. And this might 
apply both to Sacraments the minister of which has been generally 
held to be, of necessity, ordained, and to Baptism, where he need 
not be ordained.' ^ 

Cyprian's position with regard to Baptism is clear. The 
sacraments are the sacraments of the Church, and therefore can only 
be ministered within the Church. But Rome was against him. 
The Roman practice was based on the difficult and indeed 
ambiguous distinction between ' vaHd ' and ' effectual ' Baptism. 
We shall meet with this again in the case of Augustine. 

It is in the case of the ' lapsed ' that the question. What pre- 
cisely was Cyprian's conception of ' The Church ' ? becomes vital 
for understanding his position. In Carthage the factious clergy 
were moving the confessors to give letters promising rehabilita- 
tion for the ' lapsed ', and they called on Cyprian to support this. 
In reply, he was obliged to explain his general pohcy and the 
principles on which it was based. The following is an illustrative 
example :^^ ' I discovered that many of those who had defiled 
their hands and mouths [with food which had been sacrificed or 
dedicated to idols] were approaching the Confessors with impor- 
tunate emotional appeals to be given letters urging their rehabihta- 
tion, and that many such letters were being given every day. I 
wrote to the confessors urging them to remember the warnings of 
our Lord (Matt. x. 32 and Luke xii. 8) ; and I wrote to the Pres- 
byters and Deacons who, careless of the order of the Church, were 
receiving the lapsed to Communion. At the same time, as far as 
I could, I calmed the minds of the laity, so that ecclesiastical dis- 
cipline might be preserved. But when some of the lasped were 
attempting to secure by violent means the commendation which 
the confessors had promised, I wrote to the clergy [ad clerum) 
urging that disorder must cease. At the same time, I directed 
that those of the lapsed who were suffering from mortal sickness, 
and had declared their repentance and their desire to be received 


into Communion, should not be refused ; . . . and in this, I stood 
by the judgment set forth in your letters, in order that our actions, 
which should be consistent and harmonious, should not conflict. 
With regard to the others, who had received letters from the 
confessors, I sent instructions that such cases should be reserved 
until my return, so that, when the Lord shall have granted us 
peace, and a sufficient number of Bishops are able to meet to- 
gether, we may, with your judgment before us, restore regularity 
and order.' 

The details of pohcy concerning the ' lapsed ' are less important 
for the history of the Church than the principles of ecclesiastical 
organisation which were being worked out under the stress of the 
facts. The instructions given by Cyprian to the African Churches 
were based on a guiding principle of a general character. The 
general terms of rehabihtation were to be decided by a Council of 
Bishops belonging to the district aflected ; and then, the Bishops, 
with the clergy and laity assisting, should consider each case on its 

Meanwhile, however, the ' Novatianist ' party was growing 
in strength, and was emphasising an extreme ethical rigorism — an 
extreme ' puritanical ' view of what was urgently needed. 
Cyprian dealt with the situation in his important tract on the 
unity of the Cathohc Church (De Catholicae Ecclesiae Unitate). 
Cyprian did not make the distinction between ' schism ', in the 
technical sense mentioned above, and ' heresy ', in the sense of 
unorthodox theological or doctrinal error. As a matter of fact, 
those who maintained the distinction found it ambiguous. A 
' schism ' involved and impHed a theory of the nature, authority, 
and extent of ' The Church ' ; and this is obviously a theological 
question of fundamental import, and raises other equally impor- 
tant questions. 

After quoting from the Latin version the words of Matt. xvi. 
19 and John xxi. 16 (' Tend my lambs ' — Pasce agnos) Cyprian 
states what he beheved to be the essential fact. ' When our Lord 
gave to Peter his commission, " Whatsoever thou shalt bind " 
(Matt. xvi. 19) and then renewed it to all the disciples, " Whose 
soever sins ye forgive " (John xx. 23) it is evident that he placed 


them all on the same level ; but, by first addressing Peter alone, he 
showed the unity of the commission in itself. And ever since, the 
unity of the Church has consisted in a united episcopate — the 
authority of every Bishop being his own, yet forming with 
others not a mere conglomerate of powers, but a totahty like that 
of shareholders in a joint property. Therefore, though the 
authority of the Bishop [one Bishop in each district] is indepen- 
dent, yet when an issue of vital import for faith and order arose, 
decision should be made by the body of Bishops.' Thus, 
Cyprian's principle is the equality of all the Bishops; but at the 
same time, he admitted that a Council of Bishops had an authority' 
greater than that of an individual Bishop, and he held Councils 
accordingly. He had no doubt whatever that when a Bishop v/as 
appointed in the manner approved by Cyprian himself, the 
appointment was divinely approved, and he even claimed super- 
natural sanction for it (Letter 66) ; none the less, the basis of the 
unity of the Episcopate is mutual concord, ' so that, if any of our 
College {sic) should attempt to introduce heresy, the others mav 
come to our aid ' (Letter 68). 

Benson observes that Cyprian's ideal was a unity resting on n 
moral and religious foundation, which, he was convinced, was 
broken by the contemporary ' schismatics '. But in the case of 
Cyprian we see logic and ideaHsm at variance over the same ques- 
tion. This became evident, when the difference between the 
African Bishops and Rome, over Baptisms administered bv 
' schismatic bodies ', took a much more serious turn. The new 
Bishop of Rome, Stephen, had been advocating a more conciha- 
tory attitude towards the ' Novatianist ' Bishops ; and when die 
second Council of Carthage re-affirmed the contention of 
Cyprian and the African bishops, Stephen repHed by a decree of 
excommunication, which had no effect because of a local persecu- 
tion. The African view was strongly supported in the Near East, 
especially in Cappadocia. A report of the proceedings of the 
Carthaginian Council and of the action of Stephen had been sent 
to Fermilian, influential Bishop of the Cappadocian Caesarea. 
Fermilian's letter to Cyprian, in a Latin version, is included in the 
correspondence of Cyprian, in the third volume of the Corpus 


Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum in the Latin Series (p. 8io). Fermilian 
admits that in many provinces ' there are many differences, vary- 
ing vdth places and persons; but there has not on this account 
been any departure from the peace and unity of the Church. 
This, Stephen has now dared to do, breaking the peace which 
his predecessors maintained with you [i.e., with Cyprian].' It 
appears that Stephen claimed the right of excommunication, in 
virtue of the centrahty of Rome (emphasised as we have seen, by 
Irenaeus) and of his own position as occupant of the Chair of 
Peter by right of succession. In this connection ' succession ', as 
with Irenaeus, signifies ' apostoHc succession ' from holder to 
holder of the same oSict, not from consecrator to consecrated. 

Logically, Cyprian should have insisted that Stephen had 
excluded himself from the Church. But his native common 
sense, and his determination to tolerate, for the sake of Christian 
unity, what he beheved to be a serious mistake in ecclesiastical 
poHcy, made it impossible for him to regard Stephen as excluded 
from the Church. On the other hand, the assertion that the 
breach between Carthage and Rome ' laid Cyprian's theory of 
the Episcopate in ruins ' needs quahfication. His theory failed 
because of the direction in which the Church, East and West 
aHke, was moving. His ideal of the moral and rehgious unity 
of the Episcopate was defeated by the wills of men. If Cyprian's 
dogma, that to be out of communion with the Episcopate is to 
be ahenated from Christ and from God, is simply rejected, and 
when his actual appHcation of his theory is sympathetically 
examined, we see (if two modern poHtical terms may be used as 
illustrative) that it excludes any ecclesiastical ' totaHtarianism ' with 
its centre in Rome, and affirms an ecclesiastical ' federahsm '.^ 

To turn from Cyprian, and his troubled Episcopate in Africa, 
to Alexandria and to Origen is to come into a different atmosphere. 
.Origen died in a.d. 254 in consequence of his sufferings during the 
Decian persecution — the persecution which created the ecclesi- 
astical problems that confronted Cyprian. Origen, who speaks 
more often of the churches ' than of 'The Church', accepted the 
organisation as he found it embodied in each church in the 
responsibihties of the Bishop, the Presbyters, and the Deacons. 


He respected the see of Rome, but he recognised no unique 
supremacy granted to Peter or his successors. Origen is convinced 
that all the original Apostles were endowed with the same privi- 
leges as Peter. The case of Peter is interpreted as typical of all 
true believers : * All behevers, so far as they are true Christians, 
are Peters.' ^^ 

We have seen the fundamental importance which Origen 
assigned to Tradition, and to the Church as vahdating the 
authority of Tradition; though for the determination of the 
deeper content of Tradition he advocated the methods of Alex- 
andrian interpretation appHed to the Bible. It is clear that, for 
Origen, the Church was before all else the guardian of divine 
Truth. His ideal Bishop, while an efficient administrator, must 
be a great teacher of the Christian faith. Origen could not fore- 
see the tragic history of Christian thought among the eastern 
churches during the century that was to follow, and the struggle 
of Athanasius to save the truth that God had in very deed entered 
into humanity. 

It is strange to reflect on the fact that a century after the time of 
Cyprian a movement arose in North Africa which in its original 
principle was akin to ' Novatianism '. During the intervening 
years, Constantine had put an end to the last great persecution of 
the Christians by the Roman State. The Council of Nicsea had 
met, and had promulgated the declaration which marked an 
epoch in the history of Christian theology. The Arian movement 
had ceased to be a serious factor in the Hfe and thouo;ht of the 
eastern churches. But when Augustine came to Hippo as Bishop, 
he found the churches in North Africa divided and distracted by 
the Donatist movement, wliich had become a ' schism ' in the 
special meaning of the word. The original leaders of tliis move- 
ment were not ' heretics ' in any technical sense. They took their 
stand on the affirmation of Cyprian that Baptism by ' schismatics ' 
was neither ' vaUd ' nor ' effective '. As raised at this time, it 
specially concerned the clergy. Not only did the character and 
personal beliefs of the minister affect the vahdity of the rite, but 
any who yielded to tlie demands of a Roman official — above all, 
by giving up copies of the Christian Scriptures — were traditores. 


forfeited all right to administer sacramental acts of any kind, and 
lost their clerical status. 

Personal feuds soon entered into the Donatist propaganda. In 
312 — the year in which Constantine had embraced Christianity — 
the cathoHc party in Carthage secured the consecration of 
Cascihan as Bishop. A rival party, the majority of which con- 
sisted of Bishops from Numidia, consecrated a rival Bishop, 
Majorinus ; and they brought against Caecihan, and against FeHx, 
the Bishop who had consecrated him, the charge of having been 
traditores, as well as charges of immoral Hving. CaeciHan and 
FeHx were declared to be innocent ' on all counts ', by a succession 
of courts and inquiries, civil and ecclesiastical. But the Donatists 
refiised to accept these verdicts, although they themselves had 
appealed to the emperor to appoint a * neutral ' court of inquiry, 
which was held in Rome. The movement, as it increased, 
gathered together forces of many kinds special to Africa. There 
was provincial jealousy' — the proconsular province of Africa was 
much more ' Romanised ' than the adjacent districts of Numidia 
and Mauretania. There was nationaHst fanaticism — to be anti- 
Roman was to be a local 'patriot '. And what was most dan- 
gerous was the social and economic unrest rising in bitterness 
among the labourers on the estates of the great land-owners. 
This stirring and mingling of different forces, among a population 
largely African by race, made the movement into a faction of the 
worst kind. Moreover, the violence and atrocities committed 
by the wandering bands of fanatics called circumcelliones, if not 
authorised, were certainly to some extent used by the Donatists, 
The result was that Augustine was driven to defend the use of 
force against the ' schismatics ' — a poHcy which he generahsed. 
In any case, the Roman Government would have intervened 
because of the social and poHtical disorder for which the Donatists 
were indirectly and sometimes directly responsible. 

On the other hand, Augustine's attitude to the leaders who 
represented the original principles of the movement — such as 
Donatus himself, who gave his name to it, and Tyconius, with 
whose rules for the interpretation of the Bible Augustine was 
largely in agreement — was not one of mere hostihty ; though 


the differences were irreconcilable. Augustine affirmed that the 
parable of the field, with its ' wheat ' and ' tares ', was to be 
understood of the visible Church as contrasted with the Church 
as it was to be hereafter. This was iniphed in his general doctrine 
that the actually existing Church contained unworthy as well as 
worthy members, who can be separated only at the last Judgment. 
The Donatists insisted that while the ' good ' and the ' bad ' were 
together in the world, they ought not to be together in the 
Church. This, of course, implied that the Donatists themselves 
had the right to decide w^ho were the ' bad ' and who were the 
' good ', and had the right to act accordingly. That the Donatists 
themselves were outside the Church was evident to Augustine; 
but the question of the Sacraments still remained open. When 
they administered Baptism, in the way used by the cathoHcs, 
Augustine re-affirmed and emphasised the old but difficult 
and ambiguous distinction between ' vaUdity ' and ' efficacy '. 
Baptism is not invahdated by the wrong behefs of the human 
Minister. But what is meant by ' vaUdity ' and distinguished from 
' efficacy ' ? The only possible answer, if the distinction was to 
be maintained, was that schismatic Baptism, though rightly 
administered, does not convey to the recipient the supernatural 
benefit which Baptism ought to convey. This benefit is, so to 
speak, ' suspended ' until the schismatic returns to the Church, 
when it becomes effective without re-baptism. This interpreta- 
tion of the facts, Augustine appHed also to the Sacrament of 
Ordination. Nevertheless, he perceived the difficulty of main- 
taining the distinction. 

The fact is, that Augustine's position with regard to the Dona- 
tist movement was, perhaps more than he himself reahsed, com- 
plicated by his doctrine of absolute divine Predestination and 
irresistible Grace, which crossed his conception of the Church, 
and by his philosophical ideahsm, finnly held, though not 
claiming to be a matter of revelation. 

The sack of Rome by the Goths under Alaric in 410 was a 
sensationally dramatic event which made a profound impression 
on men's minds, and which prompted Augustine to produce 
what now stands as one of the greatest works of ancient Christian 


theology. He gave it the title On the City of God {De Civitate 
Dei), which he saw was inadequate to its contents, but which 
named the ideal that he had most at heart. A large division of 
the work is devoted to a pathology of Roman history and Roman 
rehgion, showing the utter falsity of ascribing the calamities of 
the western Empire to Christian antagonism to the Roman State- 
rehgion and the Roman gods. 

In this survey of a very great work all that we can do is to form 
clear and distinct ideas of the essential principles on which the 
constructive portions of the work rest, without turning aside to 
discuss matters of controversial interpretation which are side- 
issues. There are, then, certain fundamental conclusions which 
emerge, so far as clear answers can be given to the following 
questions : What is the significance of the term Civitas, usually 
rendered ' City ' ? What is the ground of the distinction between 
the two extremes — the civitas superna, the heavenly City, the City 
of God, and the ciuitas terrena, the city of Satan? What is the 
relation of these, respectively, to the visible Church and to the 
secular State? 

The usual rendering of the title is generally admitted to be 
inadequate. Civitas is neither ' city ' nor ' State '. ' Com- 
munity ' comes nearest to the original meaning, as Augustine 
himself suggests, when he speaks of ' what we call figuratively 
[mystice) two cities, that is, two communities '. This is far from 
being a mere matter of words. Augustine is convinced that 
human nature is nothing if not social ; human Hfe Is essentially 
community-hfe. For example, he suggests a definition of what 
is meant by a people : ' A people is an assemblage of rational 
beings united by general agreement as to the objects of their love ; 
whatever it loves, if it is an assembly of rational beings and not of 
beasts, if it is united over the objects of its love, it is rightly called 
a people.' ^^ 

Ideally, the contrast is between two communities : ' There are 
two communities, arising from two opposite kinds of love : the 
earthly, from the love of self even to the contempt of God, the 
civitas terrena ; the other, from the love of God even to the con- 
tempt of self, the civitas superna. The one glories in itself, the 


Other glories in God.' He passes immediately to an illustration in 
mundane terms : ' In the one, the love of power [dominandi 
libido) drives the rulers and crushes the nations it conquers ; in the 
other, the rulers and the ruled serve one another in mutual good- 
will — the rulers taking thought for all, the ruled obeying 
v^lhngly.' ^^ 

It is important to bear in mind the range of meaning given to 
the word ' love ' {amor) in these statements. ' Love ' is more 
essential in human nature even than ' will ' : ' The good will is 
love well directed ; the evil will is love ill-directed. Love, long- 
ing for what it loves, is desire ; possessing and experiencing what 
it loves, it is joy ; fleeing from what is against it, it is fear ; hindered 
and frustrated, it is sorrow. These passions are evil if the love 
from which they spring is evil ; good, if the love is good.' Many 
such statements might be quoted, all showing that love is an inner 
impulse ceaselessly moving the soul to seek satisfaction. Augus- 
tine compares it to the attraction of gravitation (of which he had 
an imperfect understanding) : ' a body by its own weight seeks 
its own place; oil poured into water rises above the water; 
water poured into oil sinks below the oil. . . . Thus, when out of 
their order, material things are restless ; restored to their order, 
they are at rest. In like manner, the thing that I love is the weight 
{pondus) of my soul ; whithersoever I am borne, that is what 
bears me.' ^^ 

The ground of the contrast, therefore, consists of two absolutely 
opposed directions of that essential urge in human nature called 
' love '. 

Then, Augustine's vision shows him that neither o£ the t^vo 
communities does exist, or ever has existed, in its fullness, on earth. 
' We must distinguish ', he urges, ' two periods in the history of 
the Church : the Church that now is, where evil men are found 
as well as good men : and the perfected Church hereafter, into 
which no evil can enter. Therefore, in the mystery of the di\'ine 
foreknowledge, many who seem to be within the Church are 
really without the Church, and many who seem to be without 
are really within.' Again : ' Do not marvel at the number of bad 
Christians who throng the Churches and even communicate at 


the altar : they are with us, in the Church that now is, but here- 
after they will not be found in the kingdom of the saints.' ^^ 

When, therefore, Augustine speaks of the Church as free from 
all imperfections, he is not referring to the Church as then existing, 
but to the Church whose existence is being prepared on earth. The 
true City of God is a transcendent spiritual community — the 
community of all those who have been and are to be saved by 
divine Grace. Therefore the true City of God has always existed, 
though not in visible form ; and it follows from the mystery of 
the divine Predestination that salvation is not hmited to beHevers 
in the historical Christian rehgion. Salvation has been made 
accessible to those who are worthy in all ages. Before Christian 
times there were outside the Hebrew race men who belonged to 
the fellowship of the heavenly City : * We may rightly beheve 
that in other nations there may have been men to whom that 
mystery was revealed and who were urged to proclaim it. . . . For 
though no other people than the Hebrews were specially called the 
people of God, they (the Jews) cannot deny that there were men 
among other nations who belonged not to the earthly but to the 
heavenly fellowship.' Then, taking the case of Job, who was not 
an Israehte by descent or race, Augustine suggests that from this 
one case they might learn that men well-pleasing to God were 
found in other nations : ' Therefore the true rehgion, although 
formerly practised under other names and with symbols different 
from ours, and formerly revealed more obscurely and to fewer 
men than it now is in a time of clearer light and wider diffusion, 
none the less is one and the same in both periods.' ^' In view of 
such statements, which are evidently intended to be frindamental, 
Augustine's denunciations of all non-Christian rehgions cannot 
be taken in their full and merely hteral force. On the other hand, 
the doctrine of Predestination imphes that though salvation is not 
Hmited to beHevers in the historical Christian rehgion, those in 
whom salvation by divine Grace has in aU ages been made effective 
have not been chosen for any merits of their own. Hi this sense, 
* Augustine's narrow predestinarianism led him to break down any 
narrow conception of the Church '.^^ 

None the less, the visible Church made a penetrating appeal 


to him. In his behef, it was the central factor in human history. 
Though it did not consist wholly of the redeemed, yet so far as it 
did consist of the redeemed, it was the earthly organ of the 
heavenly City. Its teachings, its worship, its sacraments, helped 
to purify men's hves, and make the means of Grace effective for 
those who are marked out for the last and crowning Grace, the 
gift of perfect perseverance. 

What, then, is the civitas terrena? The civitas terrena in its fuU 
and fearful meaning is the kingdom of Satan, the realm of evil, 
irreducible, ultimate, final. The fallen angels, who fell from 
love of power, and all the host of the lost from the first dawn of 
human hfe on earth, aU these have fallen into the kingdom of 
Satan. But to call this the civitas terrena, as though it was wholly 
embodied in the actual human race, was to invite misunderstand- 
ing. The actual civitas terrena is the earthly State, which does not 
consist wholly of the lost, any more than the visible Church con- 
sists wholly of the saved. The following passage is decisive, 
though others might be quoted : ' The pilgrim City of God must 
remember that among her earthly enemies those are concealed 
who are destined to be her fellow-citizens [in the heavenly com- 
munity] : she must not believe that she endures in vain what 
they as her enemies inflict untU they become Confessors of the 
Faith. And, as long as she sojourns in this world, the divine City 
has some in her own communion who will not share in the 
eternal hfe of the saints. Some of these we do not know ; others 
wiU make themselves known. . . . Such are the men whom you 
may see thronging the Churches (with us) today, and tomorrow 
rushing to the obscene shows in the theatre. And yet we must 
not despair of the salvation even of such, when even among our 
open and declared enemies there are some who are destined to 
become our friends. In truth, the two communities are so inter- 
mingled in this hfe that only the Last Judgment shall separate 
them.' ^^ But the redeemed who are in the Church, even if they 
do not know it, are working for her purification to become a 
fitting forecourt to the heavenly realm. 

Augustine's vision of the interminghng of the two communities 
in this world explains his attitude to the earthly State. But the 


question remains : What does he mean by the State? We may 
admit that his definition of ' a people ' (quoted above) may be 
taken as a definition of the State, because in his view the State is 
essentially an organisation of individuals, which may be good or 
evU. Therefore he does not exclude Justice, by defmition, from 
the very nature of the State. In a human society organising itself 
apart from God there can be no Justice : ' Unless the individual 
just man, and the people of the just community, hve by the faith 
which works through love — the love in which man loves God 
as He ought to be loved, and his neighbour as himself— unless 
these things are so, there cannot be the justice of a community of 
men associated by common interests and a common recognition 
of right.' ^^ 

It is characteristic of Augustine's method of exposition, first to 
give a definition in abstract and ideal terms, which he holds to be 
true, and then to judge actuahties in the hght of it. As he did 
with the idea of Love, so he does with the idea of peace (he uses 
the ordinary Latin word, pax). Peace, in his behef, is not merely 
the absence of civil strife or international war : ' The peace of a 
State is a weU-ordered harmony of rulers and ruled among the 
citizens.' The peace of the civitas superna is the perfectly ordered 
and harmonious enjoyment of God and of one another in God. 
The peace of the universe is the tranquilhty of order, and order is 
the distribution of all things, equal and unequal, each in its place. 
' Even a community aHenated from God has a peace of its own, 
which must not be condemned : though they will not enjoy that 
peace because they will not have used it for the best before the end 
comes. . . . But it is to our interest that it should have this peace 
meanwhile in this world, for so long as the two communities are 
intermingled, we too enjoy the peace of the civitas terrena, from 
which, by faith, the community of God are so freed that they can 
sojourn in it. . . . Therefore the Apostle urged the Church to pray 
for those in authority; and the prophet Jeremiah (xxix. 7), when 
he was predicting the captivity which was to befall the ancient 
people of God, urged them to go obediently to Babylon, and even 
to pray for it, quia in pace ejus est pax vestra.' ^ 

Augustine did not set forth a theory of what a Christian State 


should be, nor did he exclude the possibility of a Christian State. 
' The things needful for this mortal life are used by members of 
both communities — by each in its own characteristic way. The 
civitas terrena seeks a merely secular peace; but the heavenly 
community — or, rather, that part of it which sojourns in this 
present Hfe and lives by faith — must needs use that peace until the 
conditions of mortahty wliich necessitate it shall have passed 
away.' And if we ask, what are the duties of subjects in the 
secular State? we may refer to the following characteristic answer : 
' Let those who say that the teaching of Christ is incompatible with 
the well-being of the Roman State, give us an army such as the 
teaching of Christ requires soldiers to be, let them give us such 
subjects, such husbands and wives, such parents and children, 
such masters and servants, such kings, such judges, even such tax- 
payers and tax-collectors, as the Christian rehgion has taught that 
men should be, and then let them dare to say that the Christian 
religion is adverse to the well-being of the State. Nay rather, 
let them no longer hesitate to confess that this doctrine, if it were 
obeyed, would be the salvation of the State.' '-- 




As the doctrine of the authority of the Church became more 
definite, the doctrine of the Sacraments developed along with it, 
and in fact vv^as inseparable from it. We need not dwell on the 
various meanings of the word sacramentum in Roman Law, beyond 
referring to the meaning of the word which appealed to TertulHan 
(the oath of allegiance taken by a soldier) : ' We are called to the 
mihtary service {ad militiam) of the Hving God, when we answer in 
the words of the sacrament.' TertuUian is speaking of the con- 
fession of faith made by a candidate for Baptism. But in his own 
time, Christian theologians were using the word ' sacrament ' as 
descriptive of the whole ritual of the two principal Christian 
sacraments — Baptism and the Eucharist. The reason why the 
baptismal controversy in the time of Cyprian roused so much 
bitterness, and almost led to a ' schism ' between Carthage and 
Rome, sprang directly from the interpretation given to the 
traditional ritual authorised by the Church, and the unquestioned 
behef held by Cyprian and his followers that Baptism had a 
supernatural efficacy for the recipient only when administered by 
one who was authorised by the Church. 

Baptism is one vitally important factor in the Christian inheri- 
tance from Judaism. It had acquired a special significance among 
the Jews because of the increasing number of ' proselytes '■ — con- 
verts from heathenism. The Rabbis regarded it as a purification 
from heathen defilements and an incorporation of the convert into 
the ' chosen race ', under the ancient Covenant between the God 
of Israel and the people as a whole. The proselyte immersed him- 
self, in the presence of the Rabbis, who recited to him portions 
of the Torah. There was no question of the presence of priests.^ 



We may assume that conversions from heathenism began long 
before the birth of Christianity, and that ceremonial Baptism by 
immersion began in consequence. The use of water for all kinds 
of purifications and initiations was universal in the contemporary 
world. What is distinctive in Baptism as a reHgious rite is the 
interpretation put upon it. Among Christian beHevers it was in 
effect universalised, becoming a ceremony not merely of initiation 
but of incorporation into a new fellowship with God and man 
through the forgiveness of sins and the power of the Holy Spirit. 
We may say with confidence that there is no warrant in the New 
Testament for regarding Baptism as a ceremony beheved by 
itself, merely as a ritual, to secure the favour of God. 

When we turn to the narrative of the work of John the Baptiser, 
it is evident that while he administered Baptism by immersion, its 
real meaning for him was ' repentance ', change of mind and heart, 
and that this inward change was to be intensified with immeasur- 
able range and power when the Messiah himself came to baptise 
' with the Holy Spirit ' (Mark), ' with the Holy Spirit and with 
fire ' (Matthew and Luke). 

In the synoptic Gospels there is no record that during his 
earthly Hfe Jesus Christ made any reference to water-baptism. 
Belief in his direct sanction for the administration of Baptism by 
his Apostles rests on the resurrection-saying recorded in Matthew 
xxviii. 19. There is no reasonable doubt that this saying is a 
genuine part of the Gospel of Matthew in its final form.- The 
question remains, however, whether the saying is authentic, or 
whether it was inserted by the Greek editor to put on record an 
interpretation current later. It is significant that in the Book of 
Acts, Baptism is ' into the Name of the Lord Jesus ' (viii. 16, xix. 
5), and that where Paul dwells on the meaning of Baptism he 
speaks of being baptised ' into Christ ', or ' into liis death ', or 
' into one body ' (Rom. vi. 3, 4 ; I Cor. xii. 13 ; Gal. iii. 27). The 
words of the famous text are not referred to. The power of the 
Holy Spirit supervened when the Apostle ' laid his hands upon 
them '. Moreover, the use of the Greek prepositions is important. 
The Greek is not ' baptise in ' [en) the Name, that is. by the 
authority of Christ, but ' into ' [cis) the Name — signifying wilhng 


submission to the spiritual power of Christ. The beUef and 
feeling about personal names, in the Hebrew, Jewish, and Chris- 
tian Scriptures, is interesting. There are indications in the Old 
Testament that from the intimate connection between the person 
and the name, the name came to be regarded (in certain cases) 
as an expression of the personaHty. A remarkable example is 
that of Bezalel ' (R.V.), that is, ' under the shadow, or under the 
protection, of God ', whom God called to be a skilful artificer, 
craftsman, and inventor (Exodus xxxi. 3). The Name of the 
Deity inevitably acquired a unique significance. The ancient 
Latin version, used by Augustine (Exodus iii. 14, R.V.), 
reveals the traditional Christian interpretation : Ego sum qui sum ; 
. . . Qui est misit me ad vos ; ^ ' " He who is " has spoken ; " He 
who is " has sent me.' So, in the New Testament, the Name 
Jesus Christ expresses his Person and sums up the knowledge of 
him : ' As many as received him, to them he gave the right to 
become children of God, to those that beheve in {eis) his Name ' 
(John i, 13, in the rendering of the Revised Version). Paul is 
recorded to have wrought a miracle through that Name (Acts 
xvi. 18), but in order to accomphsh tliis, an inner knowledge of 
Christ was needed (Acts xix. 13). 

The words recorded in John (iii. 5) ' bom from water and the 
Spirit ' certainly refer to Baptism. Assuming their authenticity, 
we stHl ask. Where is the real emphasis of the words placed ? The 
reference to Baptism ' in water ' must have been well known to 
Nicodemus, a ' teacher in Israel '. The natural interpretation is, 
that unless the power of the Spirit supervenes on the famiHar 
ceremony of the water, no spiritual regeneration will take place. 

In the Epistles the expressions used are highly figurative. The 
behevers who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were * baptised 
into his death ' ; those who were baptised into Christ ' put on 
Christ ' hke a garment, and ' in one Spirit were baptised into one 
body ', when all distinctions of race, sex, and social conditions 
disappeared. It is no violent extension of such figurative 
expressions when a saving efficacy is attributed to the water itself. 
At a time when the Christian community seemed to be the one 
refuge in a doomed world and the one visible organ of the Spirit, 


it would not have been surprising if much stronger expressions 
than those now found in the New Testament had been used of 
this significant act, which might be followed by serious personal 

Justin Martyr gives a careful description of the rite of Baptism 
as it had established itself in his time (the middle years of the 
second century). It included : (i) a period of prehminary instruc- 
tion ; (ii) the use of the three Names ; (iii) a moral demand. 
Referring to those who are persuaded and beheve that ' what we 
teach is true ', and who promise to hve accordingly, he proceeds : 
' We bring them to where is water, . . . and in the name of God 
the Father and Lord of all, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, and the 
Holy Spirit, they receive the bathing of the water. In the water, 
there is called over him who chooses the new birth and repents o£ 
his sins ' the three Names ' in order that we might not remain 
children of ignorance and custom and habit, but by dehberate 
choice and understanding might repent and be forgiven '. And 
then, ' we bring him to those whom we call the Brotherhood, 
where they are gathered together, to offer prayer for ourselves, 
for him who has been enhghtened [that is, by Baptism] and for 
all others everywhere, that it may be granted to us, having learnt 
the truth, to be found by our works good citizens, and faithful 
to obey the commandments, and attain to eternal salvation '.^ 

TertuUian's account of Baptism, at any rate as administered in 
North Africa, reveals a more extensive elaboration of ritual, in 
which ' laying on of hands ' by the Bishop or by a Presbyter was a 
principal part, after the invocation over the water had given it 
the power of sanctification. Tertullian beHeved that the water 
thus sanctified had the power of purifying the body from sin; but 
the gift of the Spirit followed the ' laying on of hands ' in response 
to the confession made by the candidate.^ Of great importance, 
in view of the after history of Baptism, is TertuUian's teaching 
about its proper recipients. He was thoroughly opposed to the 
Baptism of cliildren, as dangerous to the cliild and to the sponsors. 
He was convinced that sin after Baptism was not forgiven. More- 
over, children {parvuli, not necessarily infants) cannot make the 
responses or understand the significance of what is being done. 


Harnack observed, with entire justification, that we are in 
complete obscurity as to the general adoption of the custom of 
infant Baptism by the Church. That it existed in the time of 
TertuUian is evident from the urgency of his objections to it ; and 
its prevalence in the time of Cyprian is evident. The pecuharity 
of Cyprian's position is that he recognises and approves the Bap- 
tism of children and of adults. ' Faith in the inspired Scriptures 
reveals to us that all, whether infants or adults, have the same share 
in the divine Gift. This divine and spiritual equahty is known, 
because all rational beings are equal [pares atque aequales) in that 
they have been originally created by God. Our age in years, 
with the growth of our bodies, will differ according to secular 
reckoning, but not according to the reckoning of God. Other- 
wise, the Grace which is given in Baptism would be given in 
smaller or larger share according to the age of those who receive 
it. The Holy Spirit is not given by measure, but by the Grace and 
Mercy of the Father is given equally to all.' This interesting 
passage, as Cyprian intended it, refers only to the question of 
Baptism : it has no reference to unbaptised persons of any age. 
The whole question of Baptism by ' schismatics ' or ' heretics ' 
naturally was one which concerned only adults ; but that Cyprian 
approved of infant Baptism is evident not only from the state- 
ments quoted above, but from the fact that he discusses the num- 
ber of days after birth at which Baptism may properly take place.^ 
On the other hand, the conviction, emphasised by TertuUian, that 
sin after Baptism was not forgiven, led to the custom, on the part 
of adults, of postponing Baptism to a late period in Hfe, in order to 
escape that danger. 

Not untH we come to the Cappadocian Fathers do we find any 
further endeavour to provide a theology of the baptismal rite. 
Gregory of Nyssa looks at the constitution of human nature as he 
knew it, dwelling on the view of Baptism as a ' second birth ' 
which enables the behever to rise above ' mere mortahty ' ; but 
' faith, prayer to God, invocation of the heavenly Grace ' are 
needed, as well as ' water '. Gregory is convinced, however, 
that the invocation of divine Grace over the water does really 
endow it with supernatural power ; and this, he suggests, is no 


more wonderful than the growth of a rational being from the 
minute ' germ ' resulting from the act of conception. In both 
cases we see the working of divine power using natural means for 
the production of a higher end. It is strange that Gregory, who 
was a philosophical theologian, should have imagined that such a 
fallacious analogy is even an illustration, much less an argument. 
He is on surer ground in explaining the meaning of the ' new 
birth '. Some who come to Baptism deceive themselves, being 
born again only in appearance, not in reahty. The object in view 
is the renewal, or change, of our nature ; but the nature of the 
change is carefully explained : ' Neither the power of rational 
thought nor the faculty of understanding, nor any other distinctive 
faculty of human nature, undergoes a change. Such a change 
would be for the worse, if any of these faculties of our nature 
were replaced by something else. . . . Clearly, it is when the evil 
tendencies of our nature have been destroyed that change for the 
better takes place.' Then referring to the words of Isaiah i. i6, 
he proceeds : ' If the stains of its passions are not washed away 
from the soul, and the life after initiation is of the same character as 
the uninitiate hfe, then the water is only water, and the Holy 
Spirit is not given.' ^ 

Augustine deals with the question of infant Baptism in a way 
which seems to indicate that it was becoming generally prevalent. 
' An infant, though not yet a behever in the sense of having that 
faith which includes the voluntary consent of liim who exercises 
it, nevertheless becomes a behever through the Sacrament of that 
faith. For, as it is answered [by the sponsors] that he beheves, he 
is accounted a behever, not because he assents to the truth by an 
act of his own judgment, but because he receives the Sacrament of 
that truth. When, however, he begins to have the discretion of 
manhood, he will not repeat the Sacrament [will not need to be 
baptised again]. He will understand its meaning, and of his own 
will hve by the truth wliich it contains. During the time when 
he is by reason of youth unable to do this, the sacrament will avail 
for his protection against evil powers. It will avail so much on 
his behalf, that if he dies before he comes to the age of reason, he 
will be delivered, by the love of the Church commending him 


to God through the sacrament, from, that condemnation which 
by one man entered into the world. . . . The baptised infant, 
though not yet possessing a faith animated by understanding, is 
not obstructing faith by any antagonism of the understanding, and 
therefore receives the full benefit of the sacrament of Grace.' ^ In 
view of this passage, we cannot acquit Augustine of the charge of 
representing Baptism as an opus operatum which can not only 
secure eternal salvation but even in this hfe wards off the power of 
evil spirits. At the same time, it is clear from Augustine's words 
that the efficacy of Baptism, apart from the reason and' will of the 
recipient, is hmited to childhood, until reason and will co-operate 
with the original efficacy of the rite ; but it is also clear that Augus- 
tine's interpretation has not been generally accepted by the 

The word ' Eucharist ', it need hardly be said, means ' thanks- 
giving '. The corresponding Greek word does not occur in the 
New Testament. The Church has extended its meaning to 
signify the whole ritual of the observance, which in modern 
times is most often named the Holy Communion. 

The early record in Acts ii is based on the same Tradition to 
which Paul appealed. ' They continued steadfastly in the teach- 
ing of the Apostles, and in the fellowship [koinonia) of the breaking 
of bread, and in prayer : . . . breaking bread at home, they took 
their food in gladness and singleness of heart '. It was an 
expression of the purposes of Christ himself, rather than a copy 
of any Jewish institution.^ But as Paul received the Tradition, 
it had become a special observance, the sharing of the broken 
bread and of the cup. In Mark xiv. 22-25 and in Matthew xxvi. 
26-29 the command * do this ' is not recorded. It appears in Luke 
xxii. 19 in a passage which textual scholars beUeve to have been 
compiled from Mark and from Paul. But in I Cor. xi. 23-25 
Paul records it twice, once over the broken bread and again over 
the cup. It has been suggested that a common meal which Jesus 
held with his disciples had a larger part in his ministry than is 
usually recognised. If so, the Last Supper was in truth the last, 
because it was held under the shadow of his death. Whatever the 
month and day may have been, and however we may explain the 


differences detween the Marcan and the PauHne narratives, the 
central fact remains : the inner meaning of the Last Supper is 
related not to the Jewish Passover but to the Cross. 

Paul's statement that he had ' received from the Lord ' what he 
had ' deHvered ' to them cannot mean that it had been miracu- 
lously conveyed to him. It is noteworthy that in chapter xv (v. 3 ) 
of the same epistle he uses the same words in reference to a truth 
which he had ' received ' as a Tradition and had ' deHvered ' to 
them. The account which he gives of the Last Supper had come 
down to him from a Tradition going back to the time of Jesus 
himself. The important fact is the existence of such a Tradition 
at so early a date. 

Paul's account in chapter xi is seen out of proportion if it is 
detached from the whole passage to which it belongs (verses 
20-34). His purpose was to correct abuses which had arisen in 
the Corinthian church of his day, and he recalls the words and 
acts of Jesus in order to remind the Corinthians of the true signi- 
ficance of their common meal. It appears that Lightfoot's inter- 
pretation of the Pauline passage has not been shaken [Apostolic 
Fathers, Part II, col. ii, p. 313). Lightfoot was convinced that 
from the earhest days Christians held a common meal, whicli 
before long was called the Agape. With this was combined a 
special observance on the lines signaUsed by Paul — a Eucharist 
in the proper meaning of the word. The Agape was at first a 
meal for the whole community. It was not held everywhere, 
and for various reasons was abandoned. Its importance in any 
case decreased as the importance of the Eucharist increased.^^ 

In the Fourth Gospel (vi. 41-59) the emphasis differs materially 
from the Marcan narrative. The passage is before all else ati 
interpretation of the Bread and the Cup. There is no reference to 
a communal meal in the background. The communal meal was 
probably going out of use. It has been pointed out that in any 
case the difficulty of combining a decently conducted commimal 
meal with a reUgious observance was not Umited to Corinth ; and 
in such a numerous community as that of Rome, the difficulty as 
well as the danger of orCTanisino; a communal meal for the members 
of the Church is obvious. 


The Letters of Ignatius show that the communal meal was 
giving way to a distinctively rehgious observance, to which 
supreme importance is attached. We cannot look to Ignatius for 
a theology of 'this; but he is convinced that the Bread and the 
Cup are indispensable for the spiritual efficacy of the rite, because 
the Body of Christ is in some sense present. This is not unrelated 
to his denunciation of the delusions of Docetism : ' Mark those 
men who hold strange beHefs concerning the Grace of Christ : 
they have no care for the widow and the orphan, none for the 
afflicted or for the prisoner, none for the hungry. They abstain 
from thanksgiving, because they will not beHeve that the Euchar- 
ist is the body of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Here special emphasis is 
laid on thanksgiving in direct connection with a conviction that 
the Eucharist celebrates the Real Presence of Christ. 

The statement of Justin Martyr, in a well-known passage in his 
Apology, is ambiguous, not to say confused.-*^^ But in the immedi- 
ately following passage he gives a description of the Eucharist as 
part of the Sunday Service, together with the reasons for its 
observance on Sunday in particular. ' On the day named after 
the Sun, we assemble together, and the records of the Apostles, or 
the writings of the prophets, are read, so far as there is time. 
Then, when the reader has finished, the Leader instructs us in 
words of warning and exhortation to Hve according to these 
glorious precepts. Then, we rise together and offer up prayer. 
. . . Then, bread is brought in, and wine and water, and the Leader 
offers up prayer and thanksgiving, and the people respond with 
Amen. Then, the distribution of the food thus blessed is made 
to each of those present, and is taken by the Deacons to those who 
are absent.' Immediately following the rehgious observance, 
' those who are prosperous, and who desire to do so, make gifts, 
each according to his choice, and what is collected is placed in the 
hands of the Leader, who, with it, gives help to the orphans and 
the widows, to those who from illness or any other cause are in 
want, to those who are in bondage, and to strangers from afar '. 

Then Justin explains why the assembly is held on the ' day of 
the Sun ' : because that was the first day of God's creative work, 
when He said, ' Let there be Light ', and because Jesus Christ on 


that day rose from the grave : ' For, on the day preceding the day 
of Saturn, he was crucified, and on the day following the day of 
Saturn, he rose, and appeared to his disciples.' In this passage, 
Justin makes no reference to the Jewish Tradition about the 
' seventh day ' or the ' Sabbath '. Elsewhere, criticising the 
Sabbatarian legalism of the Jews, he affirms that the Sabbath was 
ordained for the Jews alone, lest they should forget their Creator ; 
and he observes that the laws of Nature ' rest not and know no 
Sabbath ', and that God Himself continues the same administra- 
tion of the world, ' on the Sabbath day as on aU other days ^^"' 

Irenaeus makes no reference to the Agape in his work against 
heretical sects. His concentration on the Eucharist indicates its 
growing importance as a distinct and definite rehgious rite ; but 
throughout the work he has in view the ' Gnostic ' theory that 
the body of Jesus was only the appearance of a material body, 
together with the Marcionite theory that the created world was 
the work not of the supreme God but of an inferior Being, and 
the more extreme Valentinian theory that the created world was 
the product of mere ignorance and a mere ' abortion '. The 
position defended by Irenaeus as the prevailing doctrine of the 
Church is summed up in the following affirmation : ' Just as 
the bread wliich came from the earth, when it has received the 
invocation of God upon it, is no longer common bread, but 
becomes a Eucharist consisting of two parts, an earthly and a 
heavenly, so our bodies, when they participate in the Eucharist, 
are no longer perishable, because they have the hope of a resurrec- 
tion into eternal hfe.' Irenaeus does not offer any theology of the 
way in which the material elements undergo this transcendent 
change ; but it is not an entire ' transubstantiation ' of the ele- 
ments' — it is the addition of a supernatural efficacy to them.^^ 

The idea of the Eucharist as a Sacrifice can be traced from the 
time of Ignatius onwards, appearing at first rather incidentallv ; 
but we find that by the time of Cyprian such statements have 
become more definite. Thus, he observes (Letter 65) : ' If Jesus 
Christ our Lord and God offered himself as a sacrifice to the 
Father, and commanded this (the eucharistic observance) to be 
done in commemoration of himself, then the priest acts in Christ's 


Stead [vice Christi Jungitur) : the priest imitates what Christ did, 
and offers a true and full sacrifice to God the Father.' We must 
not read too much into a statement like this ; the emphasis in the 
word sacrifice is often primarily on offering ; but Cyprian means 
that the office of an ordained priest is essential. We suggest that 
if the idea of a sacrifice in the Eucharist is to be made defmite, it 
must mean that the real sacrifice is that of Christ, who descends to 
make these material elements the means of conveying to the 
communicants a spiritual good which he alone can give. The 
Real Presence of Christ becomes effective there and then, and in 
that way. This was perceived by Augustine. He held that the 
real sacrifice was the sacrifice of Christ himself, renewed in the 
Eucharist : * Christiani peracti hujus sacrificii memoriam celebrant, 
sacrosancti ohlatione et participione corporis et sanguinis Christi.' -^^ 

When we turn to the great Alexandrians, we find, as might be 
expected, that while the historical institution of the Eucharist by 
Christ is never questioned, great importance is attached to its 
allegorical interpretation. So far is this carried by Origen, that 
' it is sometimes difficult to decide when Origen is speaking of the 
Eucharist and when of general spiritual communion with Christ \^^ 
Origen distinguishes between the way in which the Bread and the 
Cup are understood ' by the simple, according to the ordinary 
imderstanding ', and ' the nourishing truth ' understood by those 
who have learnt to hsten ' with an ear of deeper and keener 
range '. His fundamental teaching is this : ' God the Word did 
not say that the bread which he held in his hand was his body, but 
that the bread which was to be broken was a symbol of the Word ; 
nor did he say that the wine in the cup was his blood, but that the 
wine which was to be poured out was a symbol of the Word. 
What else can the body and blood of God the Word be, except 
the Word which nourishes the soul and rejoices the heart? ' ^^ 

Gregory of Nyssa, on the other hand, endeavours to rationaHse 
the idea of a real change in the elements, on the basis of his 
philosophical theory of the nature of matter '. The elementary 
(visible) components of the broken Bread and of the contents of 
the Cup are not identical with their essential nature. Gregory 
starts from the facts of human physiology so far as he knew them. 


The human body maintains itself in existence through the energy 
suppHed to it by nourishment from without; and this nourish- 
ment is assimilated by the body, ' becoming what the body is '. 
In the Incarnation the human body, which became the receptacle 
of the divine Word, was in some sense identical with the divine 
Word, and became his body, and the nourishment which was 
changed into the nature of the human was changed into the 
body of the Divine Word : ' with good reason, therefore, we 
hold that the Bread v^hich is sanctified by the divine Word is 
changed into the body of the Word ; and when we share in the 
Eucharist, our mortality participates in immortahty '.^"^ Involved 
in this is the conviction that certain effects of the Incarnation are 
continued in the Eucharist. In the Incarnation Christ ' mingled 
with ' the perishable nature of mankind, and in the Eucharist he 
' mingles with ' the perishable elements. By this communion 
with Deity in the Eucharist man may at the same time be 
' deified '. This was a Christianised and spirituaHsed version of 
an idea famihar in the ' Mystery Rehgions ' of the time. But 
Gregory's Platonic interpretation of the Christian rite did not win 
general acceptance, although he helped to spread the theory of a 
supernatural change in the elements; and the eloquence of 
Chrysostom went far to popularise it. 

If we venture to detach and state separately the fundamental 
idea involved in these apparently divergent interpretations of the 
Eucharist, it could be expressed in two propositions : (i) the 
essential fact in the Eucharist was the Real Presence of Christ ; and 
(ii) the Real Presence of Christ carried with it a change in the 
elements on the Altar. 

This was developed further by Ambrose of Milan. He 
beHeved and taught that the words of consecration pronounced 
over the elements on the Altar changed their nature in such a way 
that we do not receive the Sacrament merely in siniiUtudinem, 
symboHcaUy : ' How can that hving Bread descend from heaven ? 
Because he shares {consors est) in heavenly and in earthly existence : 
and you, in receiving what is earthly, share in the Food which is 
his divine Substance (that is, his essential Nature).' ^^ 

When we turn to Augustine, there is a primary and funda- 


mental fact to be remembered. He was a philosophical idealist. 
His idealism is not a theoretical side-issue with Httle or no bearing 
on his theology. It was a conviction of fundamental import for 
his whole view of the world, of mankind, and of reHgion. As we 
have seen (page 83), [it meant for him in the first place the entire 
subjectivity of our experience of events as merely successive. 
Space he did not hold to be subjective in that sense. Space was 
a vast system of relations, objective to the human mind, but 
created by God as the field for reveahng His works in the order 
of Nature. When Augustine speaks of ' matter ', he means 
space, so understood. In any other sense, ' matter ' is a mere 
fiction — as, for example, in the sense of a ' substance ' which 
though created is non-mental, bearing the quahties which our 
senses perceive. For that reason, a doctrine of the ' transubstantia- 
tion ' of a material substance would have had no meaning for 
Augustine. No ' material substance ' exists to be thus trans- 
formed. Hence, as we have seen (page 80), all miracles are 
special actions of the divine Will, differing from the imiversal 
activity of the divine Will in their unique character and in the 
significance of their meaning and purpose. Piis interpretation of 
the two principal Christian Sacraments is an apphcation of his 
ideahsm. It is characteristic of Augustine that he gives definitions 
of a sacrament, not always in the same words, but not differing 
in principle. In a Christian Sacrament, ' things visible become 
signs [signacula) of things invisible, but by them the visible 
things are honoured 'P Such a statement, taken by itself, 
might suggest that the Sacrament is only a memorial; but, as 
we shall see, this was not the interpretation placed upon it by 

The ritual of Baptism is vahd even if the minister is iinworthy, 
or even if he is a ' heretic '. The conclusion can be summed up 
in two brief statements. Non cogitandum quis det sed quid det, and 
aliud est non habere, aliud non utiliter habere. What is to be con- 
sidered is not, in the first place, who gives but what he gives ; and 
it is one thing not to possess a Good at aU, but another not to 
possess it to any good effect. If the efficacy of the rite depended 
on the character of the minister, doubt would be thrown on the 


whole sacramental life of the past, and the efficacy of the Sacra- 
ment would depend on men. The defender of the Cathohc 
position could never accept that conclusion. Augustine affirms 
the supreme importance of the ritual acts, and the comparative 
unimportance of the human minister : ' Baptism is not vahdated 
by the worthiness of those who administer it or of those for whom 
it is administered, but through him by whom it was instituted, by 
his own holiness and truth. '^^ In other words, it is the Holy 
Spirit in Christ that is effective in Baptism. 

The same ideahsm is involved in his interpretation of the 
Eucharist. The Real Presence of Christ is manifested in a unique 
manner in response to the invocation over the elements on the 
Altar, in a way transcending any other miracle save the Resurrec- 
tion. If Augustine had been asked, Why does Christ act in this 
unique way when these ritual acts are faithfully performed? he 
could only appeal to the Gospel records as he read them before 
him : Christ ordained that it should be so. Whenever Augustine 
refers to the Eucharist, he affirms the Real Presence of Christ in it : 
this is the ' spiritual food ' made effective for the faithful com- 

In a Sermon addressed to ' lay ' folk, Augustine relates his 
interpretation of the Eucharist to a cardinal utterance of Paul 
(I Cor. xii. 27) : ' What you see in the Sacrament is the Bread and 
the Cup : what your faith needs to understand is the Presence of 
the Body of Christ. . . . The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ 
ascended into heaven : how then can the Bread be liis Body and 
the Cup contain his Blood? Brothers: the Sacrament is thus 
set forth because in it one thing is seen and another is understood. 
What is seen is the material appearance : what is understood, is 
the power of spiritual food. If you would understand the Body 
of Christ, remember the words of the Apostle. If, then, you are 
the body of Christ, the mystery of the Lord's table is in your- 
selves.' ^^ 

In his exposition of Psalm xcviii, Augustine interprets the words 
of Christ at the Last Supper : ' It is not this visible body that you 
are about to consume, nor that blood which they who \\'ill 
crucify me wdll shed. I have declared to you a mystery [sacra- 


mentum) : iinderstood spiritually, it will give you help. Although 
it must be visibly celebrated, it must be spiritually understood.' ^^ 
And again, near the end of his De Civitate Dei, Augustine thus 
interprets the words recorded in John vi. 56 fF. : ' When Christ 
said, " he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood, abides in me 
and I in him," Christ declares . . . what it really is to consume his 
Body and his Blood. It is to dwell in Christ. It is as if Christ 
said. He who dwells not in me and in whom I do not dwell, let 
him not imagine that he can consume my Body and my Blood.' ^* 
The Sacrament is one thing, the virtue of the Sacrament is another 
thing. The virtue of the Sacrament is the spiritual food after 
which the faithful hunger. 

We briefly indicated above (page 225) the bearing of Augus- 
tine's philosophical ideahsm on his interpretation of the elements 
in the Eucharist ; but that philosophical ideahsm is expanded and 
deepened until it becomes a profound spiritual ideal. In his last 
conversation with Monica (his mother) he shows how they tried 
to ascend, through images derived from the created world, to some 
reahsation of the blessedness of perfect union with God, and how, 
as they spoke of their longing for it, they seemed for a moment to 
reach out to it. When they tried to express in words what they 
had felt, they said : * Suppose all that we perceive in earth and sea 
and air were put to silence, and all the tumult of the flesh in us 
were hushed, and even the soul spoke no words to itself but 
passed beyond all thought of itself : suppose that all dreams and 
works of imagination were hushed, with every word and sign 
and all that belongs to this changing world : suppose they were all 
silenced — though, if they could speak to one who had ears to 
hear they would say " we made not ourselves. He made us who 
abides for ever " : suppose they uttered only this and then were 
silent, when they had turned the ears of the hearer to Him who 
made them, leaving Him to speak alone, so that we could hear 
His voice not through tongue of flesh nor voice of angel, nor in 
thunder nor in any likeness that hides what it reveals : suppose 
then that God, whom through all these changing things we have 
learnt to love, were to be revealed to us directly without any such 
mediation : suppose that this vision of God were to be prolonged 


for ever, and all imperfect ways of vision were taken away, and 
that this alone should so overwhelm him who beheld it and fill 
him with mystic joy, and that hfe were for ever like that moment 
of insight and inspiration to which we rose : would not this be 
what is meant by the words, Enter thou into the Joy of thy 
Lord? ' 





^ (p. 20). Hamack, Mission and Expansion of Christianity, English transla- 
tion, vol. I, pp. 31 fF. (on religious Individualism). 

2 (p. 21). Virgil, Aeneid, bk. I, 278-279 and VI, 851-855. 

^ (p. 22). Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses {Against heretical Sects), bk. I, ch. xxiv. 
section 2 (why human Govenmients were appointed by God). The transla- 
tion of this work in Pusey's Library of the Fathers is useful for reference. 

* (p. 22). Ambrose of Milan, Epistle numbered 73 in Migne, Patrologia 
(Latin Series, vol. XVI, col. 125 1). 

^ (p. 23). Among the numerous books on the 'Background', most of 
which are valuable for students of Christian history, we may mention Samuel 
DUl, Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius (1904) ; H. A. A. Kennedy, 5/. 
Paul and the Mystery Religions (1913); S. Angus, The Mystery Religions and 
Christianity (1925); A. Loisy, Les Mystkes paiens et le Mystere Chretien, and 
review of this book in The Journal of Theological Studies, vol. XIX, pp. 183 ff. 

Chapter I 


^ (p. 28). The quotation (by permission) is from According to the Scriptures, 
by Professor C. H. Dodd, ch. VI, pp. 126-127. 

2 (p. 29). The writings grouped under the title ' The ApostoUc Fathers ' 
have been published in one volume, with Greek texts and Enghsh translations, 
by Lightfoot and Harmer, based on Lightfoot's classical edition in four volumes. 
The most important are The Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians (the so- 
called ' Second Epistle of Clement ' is an anonymous homily), and the Letters 
of Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, written to seven Churches, during his journey 
to Rome, whither he was being taken to martyrdom. On the remarkable 
tract The Teaching of the Apostles (the Didache), we may refer to Dr. J. M. 
Creed's Essay in The Journal of Theological Studies, vol. XXXIX (1935), pp. 70 fF. 

^ (p. 38). The questions arising out of the origin of the * Rule of Faith ' 
are analysed, with references to the sources, by Canon J. N. KeUy, The Early 
Christian Creeds (1950). The work done in recent years on the origin and 
history of the ' Apostles' Creed ' is set forth impartially by Fr. de GheUinck, 
Les Recherches sur les Origines du Symbole des Apotres (Paris, 1945). But the 
furst ' seed ', as it were, of the * Rule of Faith ' is seen in the facts of the Gospel as 
recorded in the passages quoted above from the second chapter of the Book of 
Acts (compare also ch. v. 30-32). 

* (p. 40). This much-discussed statement (on the central importance of the 
Roman Church) is from Irenaeus, op. cit.. Ill, iii. 2. 

p 229 


^ (p. 42). The quotations are from Tertullian, On the Prescription of the 
Heretics, ch. XII and XIV, in the translation of T. H. Bindley. 

^ (p. 44). In his study entitled Mercian, der Evangelium vom Fremden Gott 
{The Gospel of the Stranger God) Hamack considers all the questions relating 
to Marcion's life and work. More recently, the Rev. E. C. Blackman, in 
Marcion and his Influence (1948), has carried the subject further, and has dis- 
cussed the points of affinity between the religion of Marcion and that of some 
modem theologians. On the Gnostic movement in general, we may refer to 
the article ' Gnosticism ', in Hastings, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. 
VJ, and (especially) to F. C. Burkitt, Church and Gnosis (1932). 

' (p. 47). The best account (in Enghsh) of the life and work of Clement of 
Alexandria is that of R. B. Tolhnton : Clement of Alexandria, a Study in Christian 
Liberalism (1914). In 1902 Drs. F.J. Hort and J. B. Mayor published (-with 
Greek text and Enghsh translation) an edition of the seventh Book of the 
Stromata, in which Clement discusses the character of the ' Christian Gnostic *. 

^ (p. 48). The quotations are from the Stromata, bk. VII (Hort and Mayor, 
op. cit., pp. 96, 117, 157, 167). 

* (p. 50). A very comprehensive study of Origen's Hfe, writings, and 
thought, is that of E. de Faye, Origene, sa Vie, ses CEuvres, sa Pensee (three 
volumes, Paris, 1928). The second volume contains a discussion of the work 
done on Origen by Huet, Denis, Redepenning, Hamack, and Bigg. Hamack's 
elaborate and heavily annotated exposition appears in Enghsh in the second 
volume of the translation of his History of Dogma. Bigg's Bampton Lectures 
(1886) on The Christian Platonists of Ale.xandria have been reprinted, with 
additions and some corrections, by F. E. Brightman (191 3). The Essay by 
B. F.Westcott, * Origenes ', in the Dictionary of Christian Biography (edited by 
Smith and Wace) retains its value after more than eight)' years. Of Origen's 
work on First Principles we have now a most adequate translation by Dr. G. W. 
Butterworth, with an Introduction which is an important contribution to the 
understanding of the history and character of the work. 

^^ (p. 50). Origen's conception of the nature and authorit}- of Tradition is 
discussed by the Rev. R. H. Hanson in a valuable Essay in The Journal of Theo- 
logical Studies (1948) (on the literal and spiritual sense of passages in the Old 
Testament). The translation is that of Armitage Robinson, given in Gwatkin, 
Selections from Early Christian Writers, p. 127. 

^^ (p. 51). Origen, First Principles, I, vi. and FV, ii.7. (on the Hteral and 
spiritual sense of passages in the Old Testament). The translation is that of 
Armitage Robinson, given in Gwatkin, Selections from Early Christian Uyiters, 

P- 127- 

^^ (p. 52). On Origen's interpretation of the Temptation, see tlie passage 
quoted in Gwatkin, op. cit., pp. 137-139. 

^^ (p. 53). On Origen's interpretation of die Song of Songs, see the 
comments of Bigg, Christian Platonists of Alexandria, p. 23 1, and Preface, pp. 6-8. 

^* (p- 53)- The statements of Grcgor\- of Nyssa, in liis reply to Eunomius, 
on the authority of Tradition, represent the general position of die Cappadocian 
Fathers (Migne, Patrologia, Greek Series, vol. XLV, cols. 461 and 650). 

^^ (p. 56). Augustine's fullest statements, in reference to the interpretation 
of the Bible, are given in liis Dc Doctrina Christiana, ch. xx\'i-x.\viii. 

■^® (p. 58), Augustine speaks definitely of liis indebtedness to Ambrose in 





XXX. 9 



XXXl. 2 





his Confessions, bk. VIII, ch. ix (the quotation here is given from the translation 
of C. Bigg). 

^' (p. 6o). In this survey of Theodore's methods of interpretation I have 
been indebted in particular to Dr. Devreese, in his Essai sur Theodore de Mopsueste 
(1948), in which adequate account is taken of the results of comparitively recent 

^^ (p. 62). The translation of the passages here quoted is almost that of 
T. H. Bindley, The Commonitorium of Vincent of Lerinum (1913). 

Chapter II 


Irenasus on Christian monotheism : Adversus Haereses, II, xxv. 19. 
Irenaeus on the natural sources of beUef in God : II, xiii. 3 and 

Irenaeus on the alleged confirmation of doctrine by miracle : II, 
(Compare Justin, Dialogue, ch. vui.) 
Clement, Stromata, bk. VII (Hort and Mayor, op. cit., p. 17); 
and on the interpretation of the Creation-narrative, Stromata, bk. VI (Migne, 
Patrologia, Greek Series, vol. VIII, col. 212, and vol. IX, col. 369). We have 
detached these ideas from the fantastic number-symboHsm on which Clement 
is inclined to enlarge. Westcott {Epistles of St. John, pp. 276 ff.) observes: 
* Many of such arguments appear to us frivolous and pointless : it requires a 
serious effort to enter into them with sympathy and understanding. But such 
an effort is worth making. Conclusions which rest upon arbitrary assumptions 
as to the symmetries of things bear witness in an imperfect fashion to a deep 
sense of the divine order in creation : and we are unjust to those who held them 
if we allow the greatest errors of expression to blind us to the conception which 
they most inadequately embody.' 

^ (p. 75 ). The quotation is from Tertulhan, Adversus Hermogenem. Hermo- 
genes was an artist with leanings to Gnosticism. He had argued for the exis- 
tence of a material datum objective to God — formless, but real enough to hmit 
the divine activity ; and Tertulhan wrote this tract in reply. 

^ (p. 75). Origen on the inter-relation of the divine attributes: see First 
Priruiples, II, i (Butterworth, op. cit., pp. 79 and 134). 

' (p. 75). Origen's use of the metaphor of hfe as a ' training-ground ' : 
see First Principles, III, v and vi (Butterworth, pp. 248 and 125-126). 

® (p. 76). The quotation is from Origen's commentary on the Psalms, 
XXVII, ch. i (Migne, Patrologia, Greek Series, vol. XII, col. 1284). 

^ (p. 76). Origen's interpretation of the consummation when ' God shall 
be all in all ' : see First Principles, I, ch. ii and iv (Butterworth, pp. 24, 34, 37) ; 
also in his work Against Celsus, IV, ch. xiv (Migne, Patrologia, vol. XI, col. 

^° (p. 78). Augustine on the meaning of Faith: see his Commentary on 
the Fourth Gospel (Tractatus in Johannis Evangelium), XXV, ch. ix (Migne, 
Patrologia, Latin Series, vol. XXXV, col. 1610). 

^^ (p. 78). Augustine on Knowledge as Illumination: see The City of God 
(De Civitate Dei), X, ch. iii [Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum, Latin Series, 
vol. XL (i), p. 448. 


^^ (p- 79)- Augustine's interpretation of In Thy Light ' : see his Commen- 
tary on the Fourth Gospel, XXXV, ch. iii (Migne, Patrologia, Latin Series, 
vol. XXXV, col. 1658). 

^^ (p- 79)- Augustine on the meaning of miracle : see The City of God, 
X, ch. xii {Corpus, vol. XL (i), p. 468). 

^^ (p. 80). Augustine on belief in miracles and beUef in ' custom ' : see 
his Contra Faustum (the Manichcan), XXXVI, ch. iii. (The quotation is 
abridged from Migne, Patrologia, vol. XLII, col. 481.) 

^^ (p. 80). Augustine on the basis of certainty : see his Soliloquia, 11, ch. ii 
(Migne, Patrologia, vol. XXXII, col. 885 ; also The City of God, XI, ch. xxx\i, 
Corpus, vol. XL (i), p. 557). 

^® (p. 81). Augustine on the essential mutabUit)' of all created things: sec 
his work On the Nature of the Good {De Natura Boni), ch. i (Migne, Patrologia, 
vol. VIII, col. 551). This is the 'key-note' of all his references to sense- 
experience. In a few statements there are reminiscences of Heracleitus : ' No 
object of sense-perception remains unchanged even for a moment of time.' 

^' (p. 82). Augustine on ' the Law of Number ' : see The City of God, XII, 
xviii [Corpus, he. cit., p. 559, abridged in translation). 

^^ (p. 82). Augustine on ' matter ' and space : ' matter ' to be defined in 
terms of space : see his De Geiiesi ad Litterain, VII, ch. 21 and 27 (Migne, 
Patrologia, vol. XXXIX, col. 365). This defmition of ' matter ' in terms 
of extension and movement seems to be essentially an anticipation of the 
Cartesian view. Augustine states it repeatedly : see, especially, the Epistle 
numbered 166 (Migne, Patrologia, XXXIII, col. 722). 

^^ (p. 82). Augustine's discussion of ' endless divisibiht)' ' occurs in his 
work on the ImmortaUty of the Soul (Migne, Patrologia, XXXII, col. 1028). 

2" (p. 83). On the absurdities of the Manichean cosmology: see Augus- 
tine's Confessions, bk. V, ch. iii. 

2^ (p. 83). On the meaning of* Eternity ' as conceived by Augustine (and 
long afterwards by Boethius), see the Confessions, bk. XI, ch. xiv. (The last 
three books of Augustine's Confessions are specially important tor understanding 
of his thought on a number of fundamental questions.) 

^^ (p. 84). This has been described as ' the instrumental theorv ' of the 
relation of Mind to Body (Migne, Patrologia, XXXII, col. 1332, and XXXV, 
col. 1553)- 

-^ (p. 85). Augustine's conception of the Creation of theWorld is carctully 
examined by E. Gilson, Introduction a VEtude de Saint Angustin, third edition, 
1949, pp. 256 ff. 

^* (p. 86). Augustine's conception of continuous Creation (not ' evolu- 
tion ') : see the discussion in Gilson, op. cit., pp. 270-271. 

^ (p. 87). Augustine on the limits of man's power even over material 
things : see De Genesi ad Litterain, IX, ch. 27 and 32 (Migne, Patrologia, vol. 
XXXIV, col. 103 and following). 

2^ (p. 87). Augustine on the limited value even of true natural knowledge : 
Confessions, bk. V, ch. 5 ; also De Trinitatc, IV, ch. i, and Sermon numbered 6S 
(Migne, Patrologia, vol. XXXVIII, col. 438, and vol. XLII, col. S8S). 

2' (p. 88). To reach after and possibly attain to the iimnediate experience 
of God : Augustine, Confessions, bk. VII, ch. x. 


Chapter III 


^ (p. 91 ). The reference for the opinions of Theophilus of Antioch, on the 
limitations of the ' first man ', is to his Apology addressed to ' Autolycus ', 
ch. xxxiv-xxxvi. In Tatian we find a view similar in principle : Ad Graecos, ch. 
viii (Migne, Patrologia, Greek Series, vol. VI, cols. 819 and 1089 ff.). 

^ (p. 92). On the view of Irenasus, that the ' first man ' was imperfect and 
undeveloped, see his Adversus Haereses, bk. IV, ch. xxxvui; and for the 
quotation from Anastasius of Antioch (Migne, Patrologia, Greek Series, vol. 
LXXXVI, col. 1013). 

^ (p. 93). Irenaeus on the Jewish Torah as a 'stepping-stone': op. cit., 
IV, xii and xui. 

"* (p. 94). TertuUian expounds this ' traducian ' theory of the origin ot the 
soul with numerous physiological details on which it is not necessary to com- 
ment. Here we are considering only the ethical significance of the theor)\ 

^ (p. 95). Origen on the final destiny of man: First Principles, I, viii and 
II, i (Butterworth, op. cit., pp. 69 and 78). 

® (p. 96). On Origen's conception of the resurrection of the dead : 
Westcott, article ' Origenes ', Dictionary of Christian Biography, p. 21. 

" (p. 96). Origen on Ufe as a process of training and preparation : Against 
Cclsiis, IV, XXV and VI, xhv (Migne, Patrologia, vol. XI, col. 1064 and 1305). 

^ (p- 97)- Origen on the spiritual capacities of Mankind : see his Commen- 
tary on the Epistle to the Romans, bk. II, ch. vii. 

^ (P- 99)- Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man [De Hominis Opificio), 
abridged from the translation given in vol. V, pp. 421 ff. (in the Series Nicene 
and Post-Nicene Fathers). 

^^ (p. 99). Gregory of Nyssa foUows Origen in his doctrine of universal 
salvation : Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. V, p. 407. 

^^ (p. 100). The destiny of the unbaptised : A Synopsis of Christian Doctrine 
according to Theodore of Mopsuestia, translated from the Syriac by Dr. A. Mingana, 
Question 29. 

^^ (p. loi). In what follows, I am again indebted to Dr. Devreese, op. cit., 
pp. 12 ff., on the results of the Fall. 

^^ (p. 103). Devreese, op. cit., p. lOi : Theodore not a ' Pelagian '. 

^* (p. 105). Augustine, De Corruptione et Gratia : ' God cannot be defeated ' 
(Migne, Patrologia, vol. XLIV, cols. 943-944). 

^^ (p. 106). Augustine on Freedom as a spiritual ideal : The City of God, 
bk. XXIII, ch. xxx. 

^^ (p. 107). The key-note of Augustine's work De Dono Perseverantiae is that 
there is no escape from Predestination : the gift of divine Grace carries * the 
Elect ' even through failure and sin to final salvation. 

^■^ (p. 108). The quotation is from B.J. Kidd, History of the Church, vol. Ill, 
p. 129. 


Chapter IV 


^ (p. 115). A most adequate translation of Justin's Dialogue is that of 
Dr. A. L. Williams, Jt<5/iV; Martyr : the Dialogue ivith Tryplio (with Introduction 
and Notes). 

- (p. 117). Ircnxus, Adversus Hacreses, II, xxvii. 6 (suggestion of a kenosis 

^ (p. 118). Irenaius, V, ii (salvation * not by force '). Here we may ob- 
serve that the best work, in Enghsh, on the saving work of Christ is that of 
R. S. Franks, History of the Doctrine of the Work of Christ. 

^ (p. 120). Surviving fragments of the work of Paul of Samosata are given 
by Dr. J. H. Lawlor, Journal of Theological Studies, vol. XIX. The quotations 
here used are from that Essay, p. 39 ff. 

■' (p. 125). Clement of Alexandria, from the Stromata, bk. VII (Hort and 
Mayor, op. cit., pp. 11 and 15 : the Body of the incarnate Christ was really 
human but ' impassible '). 

^ (p. 125). Origen firmly held that there was a real union of the divine and 
the human in the incarnate Christ : Against Celsus, III, xxviii, and V, xxxix. 

' (p. 127). That Origen held some form of the kenosis doctrine is evident 
trom such passages as those in First Principles, I, ii ; II, vi ; IV, iii and iv. 

** (p. 127). Celsus asserted that what is true in Christian writings is better 
said by pagan writers. Origen's replv : Against Celsus, I, iv ; III, bcviii ; and 
IV, iv. 

^ (p. 127). The Saviour Christ and human saviours : Origen, Against Celsus, 
1, xxxi; IV, vii; VI, Ixxix; also in his Commentan- on the Fourth Gospel, 
I, ch. X. 

^•^ (p. 128). Genuine Faith creates 'good works': Origen, Commentarv 
on the Epistle to the Romans, IV, ch. vii. 

^^ (p. 128). This correspondence is discussed by Athanasius, De Decretis 
Nicaeni Synodi, and in his De Sententiis Dionysii : for the most relevant passages, 
see vol. IV in the series Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, pp. 249 ff. and 173 ff. 
Dionysius of Alexandria was a theologian of abilit}' : his surviving writings 
are translated in the Ante-Nicene Christian Library, vol. XX. 

^^ (p. 1 30). The pohcy of Constantine in relation to the Christian Church 
has often been discussed : we may refer in particular to an instructive Essay by 
Dr. N. H. Baynes in the Proceedings of the British Academy, 1949, pp. 341 ff. 
An EngHsh translation of the edict of Galerius is given in J. B. Bur)-'s edition of 
Gibbon, vol. II, pp. 141-142. 

Chapter V 


^ (p. 134). This translation of tlie Christological section in the original 
Nicene declaration is almost that of Bethune-Baker, Introduction to the Early 


History of Christian Doctrine (eighth edition, pp. 168-170), where further 
references are given. 

^ (p. 135). Athanasius on the ' Semi-Arians ' : De Synodis, ch. xl-xh 
{Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. IV, pp. 472 ff.). 

^ (p. 137). On the later ' Nicene ' Creed of the Liturgies, we may refer to 
Bethune-Baker, op. cit., p. 188 and note, and to Early Christian Creeds, by Canon 
J. N. Kelly, ch. x and xi. 

* (p. 138). For what follows, the most important reference is to Athanasius, 
First Oration against the Arians, ch. viii-xxxvi, especially to ch. xxvi, on symboUc 
statements of divine reahties. 

^ (p. 139). The Contra Gentes and the De Incarnatione Verbi Dei were 
intended by Athanasius to form a single work, written before the Arian con- 
troversy had broken out. 

® (p. 139). Athanasius on the ' Image of God ' in man: De Incarnatione, 
ch. ii and vii. 

' (p. 141). Athanasius on the metaphor of the soiled picture : De Incarna- 
tione, ch. xiv. 

^ (p. 145). In Domer, History of the Doctrine of the Person of Jesus Christ, 
English translation, vol. I, pp. 365 ff., a careful account of the work of 
Apollinarius is given. The surviving fragments of his Christological writings 
have been collected, with Introduction and Notes, by Hans Lietzmann, 
ApoUinaris von Laodicea. 

^ (p. 147). For further consideration of the surviving fragments of the 
writings of Apollinarius, we may refer to Bethune-Baker, op. cit., p. 241, and 
to Review of Lietzmann in The Journal of Theological Studies, vol. VI, p. 621. 

'^^ (p. 148). The quotation is from B. J. ELidd, History of the Church, vol. Ill, 
p. 209 (the eastern Church ' dehvered into the hands of the Moslems '). 

^^ (p. 151). In this account of Theodore, I have been indebted to Swete, 
Theodore on the Minor Epistles of St. Paul (the Introduction to his Commentary), 
and especially to Dr. Devreese in the work already referred to. 

^'^ (p. 155). Cyril's correspondence with Nestorius, owing to its highly 
controversial character, is not the best source for an adequate estimate of his 
Christology. It is very carefully analysed by Kidd, op. cit., vol. lU, ch. xii. 
Cyril's letter to the Bishop of Antioch is given by T. H. Bindley, CEcumenical 
Documents of the Faith (fourth edition, edited by Canon F. W. Green), pp. 141, 
221 (in Greek and EngHsh). 

^^ (p. 156). The importance of The Bazaar of Heracleides, as a personal 
' Apologia ' from Nestorius himself, was made known in this country by 
Bethune-Baker, Nestorius and his Teaching (1908), and by F. Loofs, Nestorius 
and his Place in the History of Christian Doctrine (19 14). We have now an 
edition of the whole by Driver and Hodgson, with an EngHsh translation. On 
the use made by Nestorius of the term prosopon we may refer to this work and 
especially to Appendix IV contributed by Prof. Hodgson. 

■^* (p. 159). These quotations from the Tome of Leo are based on the 
translation given in Bindley and Green, op. cit., pp. 168 ff". and 224 ff". (Greek and 
EngHsh). Canon Green observes : ' How the union of the two natures could 
be reaHsed Leo was no more able to say than Cyril had been : both fell back 
on its mysterious character. . . . Some theory of kenosis is inevitable in any 
restatement of our conception of the Person of Christ.' 


^^ (p. 159) I have rendered the Greek preposition (ek) by ' from ' instead 
of the conventional * of. And though the term ' Mother of God ' has estab- 
hshed itself in Roman CathoUc theology, as the equivalent of Theotokos, yet 
' God-bearer ' is the exact equivalent of the Greek word. 

^^ (p. 161). The statements here quoted are from Augustine's De Agotie 
Christiana, ch. xx, and from his Sermon numbered 123 in Migne, Patrologia, 
Latin Series, vol. XXXVIII, col. 603. 

Chapter VI 


^ (p. 162). On the general significance of the doctrine of the Spirit in recent 
Christian thought, we may refer to E. F. Scott, The Spirit in the New Testament 
(1923), H. Wheeler Robinson, The Christian Experience of the Spirit (1928), and 
Vincent Taylor, The Holy Spirit (Headingly Lectures, 1937). 

^ (p. 162). Athanasius, Ad Afros (an encycUcal letter addressed to the 
Bishops of Africa) ; Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. IV, p. 434. 

^ (p. 163). The quotation is from a review by J. F. Bethune-Baker, The 
Journal of Theological Studies, vol. XXI, p. 88. 

* (p. 167). Irenasus, Adversus Haereses, V, xxxvi, i (Man's approach through 
the Son to the Father). 

^ (p. 168). Origen, First Principles, I, ui, 2 (Butterworth, pp. 30 and 42-43). 

^ (p. 168). Origen's conception of the Trinit)^ is seen in his Commentan.- on 
the Fourth Gospel, bk. II, ch. vi (from the Greek text in the edition of A. E. 
Brooke, p. 71). 

' (p. 1 70). Statements in De Synodis and in Ad Afros suggest that Athanasius 
identified ousia and hypostasis, but this was not his final view (Migne, Patrologia, 
vol. XXVI, cols. 753 and 1035). 

^ (p. 171). A very convenient edition of the letters to Serapion is that ot 
C. R. Shapland (London, 1951). 

^ (p. 172). The Cappadocian Fathers accept the cardinal term homo-onsios 
in its original meaning, not in the sense ofhomoi-ousios. For an examination ot 
this question we may refer to the Essay by J. F. Bethune-Baker, in Texts and 
Studies, vol. VII, part i. 

^^ (p. 173). Basil of Caesarea, On the Holy Spirit (Introduction), on the 
importance of theological terms : Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. VIII, p. 3. 

^^ (p. 173). Basil, op. cit., and Epistle numbered 48 : Nicene and Post-Nicene 
Fathers, vol. VIII, pp. 29 and 139-140. 

^2 (p. 174). Gregory of Nyssa on the real purpose o( the Incarnation: 
' Catechetical Oration ', XXV : Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. V. p. 503. 
(We pass by his extraordinarily crude idea that the sufferings ot Christ were a 
' ransom ' to Satan over which God deceived Satan : it falls apart from his real 
teaching on the saving work of Christ.) 

^^ (p. 176). Gregory of Nyssa : ' not three Gods ' (from the translation in 
Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. V, p. 332 : the translation has been shghtb- 

^* (p. 177). TertuUian, Against Praxeas, ch. II (attempt to formulate the 
doctrine of the Trinity). 

1^ (p. 178). Tertullian, op. cit., ch. XIII. 


^^ (p. 178). Tertullian, op. cit., ch. IX and XXVI (use of the term portio). 

^' (p. 179). Tertullian, op. cit., ch. V and VI (God was never ' alone '). 
The quotations referred to in the last three Notes are from the translation by 
A. Souter. 

^^ (p. 180). Tertullian, De Ptidicitia, ch. XXI (Migne, Patrologia, Latin 
Series, II, col. 1023). 

^^ (p. 181). The references to Augustine On the Trinity are given by Book 
and section-number, not chapter. The English translation of this work, edited 
by Marcus Dods, is useful for reference. 

Chapter VII 


^ (p. 188). Charles Gore, The Church and the Ministry (from the edition of 

^ (p. 188). Ignatius, To the Magnesians, ix, x, and To the Philadelphians, 
X : Lightfoot and Harmer, op. cit., pp. 145, 154 (The Church and Judaism). 

^ (p. 190). ' The Riddle of the Didache ' : see Dr. J. M. Creed's Essay under 
this title, The Journal of Theological Studies, vol. XXXIX (1938), pp. 37 ff. 

* (p. 192). Clement of Rome, To the Corinthians, xxxvii, Ixxx, Ivi (Lightfoot 
and Harmer, op. cit., pp. 73, 76-77, 80-81). 

^ (p. 196). Tertulhan, On the Prescription of the Heretics, xx (froin the trans- 
lation of T. H. Bindley, p. 61). 

^ (p. 196). In what follows, I am indebted to an important Note by Dr. 
W. L. Knox, The Journal of Theological Studies, vol. XLVII (1946), pp. 180-185. 

' (p. 197). Rome the centre of the civilised world : see Knox, loc. cit., for 
some effective examples. 

^ (p. 198). Cyprian on the choice of a Bishop : Epistle 67. The letters of 
Cyprian are here numbered as in the Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum, Latin 
Series, third volume. The best account of Cyprian, in EngUsh, is still that of 
E. F. Benson, Cyprian, His Life, Times and Work. The Letters are translated in 
Pusey's Library of the Fathers. On the interpolations in the fourth section of the 
De Unitate we may refer to Benson, op. cit., pp. 200 ff. ; to J. H. Bernard's 
Essay, ' The Cyprian Doctrine of the Ministry ' in the volume The Early 
History of the Church and Ministry, second edition, 1921 ; and to Hartcl's Latin 
Preface, Corpus, loc. cit., pp. xhi ff. There is no necessity to speak of forgery ' 
in this connection; the interpretation may have been suggested, and after- 
wards inserted in good faith. 

^ (p. 200). The quotation (by permission) is from Professor S. L. Greenslade, 
from his comprehensive historical and critical survey. Schism in the Early 
Church (1953). 

^•^ (p. 200). From Cyprian's 'Epistle' numbered 20; addressed to the 
' Presbyters and Deacons holding Office in Rome ', where false reports con- 
cerning himself had been sent. 

^ (p. 203). An interesting comparison between Cyprian's theory of the 
Episcopate and the system of Presbyterian Church Government as developed 
in Scotland, is given by T. M. Lindsay, Church and Ministry in the Early Centuries, 
pp. 282 ff. 


^2 (p. 204). From Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, XII, 
X (Migne, Patrologia, Greek Series, vol. XIII, col. 1004). 

1^ (p. 207). Augustine, The City of God, XV, i, and XIX, xiv (in what 
follows, this work is referred to as * D. C. D.'). 

1* (p. 208). D. C. D., XV, xxviii. 

15 (p. 208). D. C. D., XIV, vii, and Confessions, XIII, ix. No translation 
of the Confessions is of much use for understanding Augustine's thought unless 
it contains the last three ' Books '. 

1^ (p. 209). The two ' Communities ' within the visible Church : Migne, 
Patrologia, vol. XLIII, cols. 196 and 659, and vol. XL VIII, cols. 292 and 298. 

1' (p. 209). D. C. D., XVIII, xlvii, and Sermon numbered 26 in Migne, 
Patrologia, vol. XXXVUI, col. 173. 

1^ (p. 209). Robertson, Regnum Dei (Bampton Lectures, 1901) : bearings 
of Augustine's doctrine of predestination on his doctrine of the Church. 

1^ (p. 210). Separation of the two ' Communities ' : D. C. D., I, xxxv. 

20 (p. 211). D. C. D., IV, iv, and XIX, xxiii. 

^1 (p. 211). D. C. D., IV, xiii and xxv (recognition of secular authorit)). 

22 (p. 212). D. C. D., XIX, vii (Christianity could be the salvation of the 

Chapter VTII 
tpie sacraments : baptism and the eucharist 

I (p. 213). Emil Schuerer, Geschichte des Judischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jestt 
Christi, third edition, pp. 129 ff. The existing Enghsh translation is from the 
second edition. And for a view of the subject over a longer period, Judaism in 
the Early Centuries of the Christian Era, by G. F. Moore, is indispensable. 

^ (p. 214). On Matthew xxviii. 19 : we may refer to the Essay by F. H. 
Chase, The Journal of Theological Studies (July, 1905), pp. 499 fF. If this is 
accepted as an authentic command of the risen Christ, it is noteworthy that the 
Apostles did not follow it, but baptised simply in {cis) the name of Jesus Christ. 

^ (p. 215). Augustine on Exodus iii. 14: Sermon numbered 6 in Migne, 
Patrologia, Latin Series, vol. XXXVIII, col. 61. 

"* (p. 216). Justin's account of Baptism and its meaning; Apology, sections 
Ixi and Ixv. 

5 (p. 216). TertuUian, De Baptismo, sections 6 and 8. 

^ (p. 217). Cyprian, Letter numbered 44. 

' (p. 218). Gregor)' of Nyssa, * Catechetical Oration', sections xxxiii .md 
xl (Dr. Srawley's translation). 

•* (p. 219). Augustine, Epistle numbered 98. 

^ (p. 219). We may refer to Professor T. W. Manson's discussion in the 
volume Christian Worship, Studies in its History and Meaning (edited by Dr. N. 
Micklem), p. 48. 

^^ (p. 220). This whole question is tlioroughly discussed by Dr. J. H. 
Srawley, The Early History of the Liturgy, second edition, revised, Cambridge, 


II (p. 221). On the question of interpretation of this passage in Justin, wc 
may refer to an important Note by Dr. Bethune-Baker, op. cit., p. 44. 


^2 (p. 222). The references to Justin here are to the Apology, section 67, and 
to the Dialogue, sections 23 and 29. 

^' (p. 222). Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, IV, xviii, 5. 

^■^ (p. 223). Augustine, Contra FaustumManicheum, XX, xviii. 

^^ (p. 223). Bigg, op. cit., p. 266; and on the place of the Agape in the 
Alexandrian Churches, p. 137 note. 

^^ (p. 223). Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, section 
Ixxxv (Migne, Patrologia, Greek Series, vol. XIII, col. 1734). 

^' (p. 224). Gregory of Nyssa, Catechetical Oration, section xxxvii : 
Dr. Srawley's translation, pp. 109-112. 

^^ (p. 224). Ambrose of Milan, De Sacrainentis, section i (we assume that 
the two works De Sacramentis and DeMysteriis are both the work of Ambrose : 
in any case the interpretation of the Eucharist is the same in both). 

^^ (p. 225). Augustine, De Catechisandis Rudibus (on instructing the un- 
learned), Migne, Patrologia, Latin Series, vol. XL, col. 344. 

"" (p. 226). Augustine, Contra Cresconium, IV. xvi [Corpus Scriptorwn 
Ecclesiasticorum, Latin Series, vol. LII, p. 52). 

^^ (p. 226). Augustine, Sermon numbered 272 in Migne, Patrologia, vol. 
XXXVn, col. 1247. 

^^ (p. 227). Augustine on Psalm xcviii (numbered as in Migne, Patrologia, 
vol. XXXVI, col. 1265). 

2^ (p. 227). Augustine, D. C. D., XXI, xxvi. 

The literature on the Hfe, writings, and teaching of St. Augustine is of vast 
extent : a bibUography to 1949 is given in the indispensable work of M. Etienne 
Gilson, to which reference has previously been made in these Notes. English 
students in recent years seem to have been mainly interested in Augustine's 
poHtical doctrines, with special reference to the De Civitate Dei. Dr. J. N. 
Figgis has pubhshed a valuable introduction to the study of this subject. The 
Political Aspects of Augustine s ' City of God', with references to the hterature. 


AcACius, ' compromise ' on Arianism, 

^tius (see Eunomius), 136 
Ambrose, on the ideal Law of Nature, 

and Augustine, 54-58 

on the Eucharist, 224 
ApoUinarius, Christology, 143-147, 

Aristotle, on the solar system, 23 

on Form and Matter, 85 

fixity of Species, 87 

idea of ousia, 169 
Arius and ' Arianism ', 131-134 
Athanasius, Christology fundamental, 

his action at Nicsea, 133-135 

divine Sonship the first principle, 
137, 139-142 

on the Holy Spirit, 170-172 
Athenagoras, on the Holy Spirit, 166 
Augustine, rules for Interpretation, 

Faith and Divine Illumination, 77- 

basis of certainty, 80-82 

on Time and Space, 83-87 

mysticism, 87-89, 227-228 

doctrine of inherited Guilt, 103-104 

on Freedom, 105 

his Ideahsm, 83, 225 

Christology, 1 60-1 61 

on the Trinity, 1 81-185 

virtue of the Sacrament, 226-227 

Baptism of infants, 218-219 

on the Church, 206-212 

Barnabas, on Tradition, 3 1 

Basil of Ancyra, * Semi-Arianism', 135 

Basil of Cassarea, on Tradition, 53 

on Eunomius, 76-77, 172 

knowledge of God, 77 

on the Trinity, 172-173 

Bethune-Baker, Dr. J. S., on the 

Trinity, 163 
Bigg, Dr. Chas., on AUegorism, 60 
Bindley, Dr. T. H., on the ' Vin- 

centian Canon ', 62 
Boethius, idea of Eternity, 84 

Cassarius, end of the Pelagian Con- 
troversy, 109-110 
Celsus, misunderstandings of Christian 

beHefs, 76, 95, 125-127 
Chrysostom (see Theodore), 58 
Clement of Alexandria, Allegorism, 
48-49, 123 
Divine transcendence, 73-74 
the Creation narrative, 74 
doctrine of Sin, 94 
the Logos doctrine fundamental, 
Clement of Rome, quotations from 
the New Testament, 29, 30, 38 
Tradition as a Guide, 3 1 
the purpose of Christ's Passion, 113 
no Theology of the Trinity, 166 
Cyprian, on the appointment of 
Bishops, 194 
on the Sacraments, 199, 217, 222- 

treatment of the ' lapsed ', 200-201 
unity of the Church, 201-203 
Cyril of Alexandria, on ' Nestorian- 
ism ', 152-157 

Diodore (see Theodore), 58 
Dionysius of Alexandria, 128-129 
Dionysius of Rome, 128-129 
Dioscorus, action at Ephesus, 157 
Dodd, Dr. C. H., on ' fulfilment ' of 
prophecy, 27 

Eunomius, extreme Arianism, 53, 136 
and the Cappadocian Fathers, 147, 




Eusebius of Caesarea, action at Nicasa, 

Eusebius of Nicomedia, protector of 

Arius, 131 
Eutyches, his position, 148 

his ' Monophysite ' doctrine, 1 56- 


Flavian (Bishop of Constantinople), at 
Ephesus, 157 

Gregory of Nazianzus, on the know- 
ledge of God, 53, 76-77 

on the Trinity, 172 
Gregory of Nyssa, on Tradition, 53 

on the growth of the Soul, 98 

purpose of the Incarnation, 99 

not ' three Gods ',175 

on Baptism, 217-218 

interpretation of the Eucharist, 

Hamack, on the influence of Greek 
Philosophy, ix, 72 

on Origen, 96 

influence of Old Testament pro- 
phecy, III 

on ' Monarcliianism ',119 

on Arianism as a ReUgion, 132 
Heracleitus, the Logos doctrine, 66 
Hermas, on Tradition, 3 1 

Monodieism fundamental, 65 
Hosius of Cordova, at Nicaea, 132-133 

Ignatius, the purpose of Christ's 
Passion, 113 

on the Eucharist, 221 
Irenaeus, on the need of earthly rule, 22 

use of the New Testament, 29 

on the genuine Tradition, 39-41 

ideal of simplicity, 70, 71 

doctrine of ' Recapitulation ', 92, 

results of the Fall, 92 

suggestion of a Ketwsis in the In- 
carnation, 1 1 6-1 1 8 

on the activity of the Holy Spirit, 

on the Eucharist, 222 

John (Bishop of Antioch) and Cyril, 

Julian, advocate of ' Semi-Pelagian- 

ism ', 108 
Justin Martyr, as * Apologist ', 32-33 
use of the Gospels, 36-38 
his Logos doctrine, 68-70, 114, 166- 

on Miracles, 72 
on the Holy Spirit, 166 
no ' Second God ',169 
on Baptism, 216 
on the Sunday Service, 221-222 

Leo (Pope), doctrine of * Two 

Natures ' in Christ, 158 
Lightfoot, Bishop, on Phil. ii. 6, 

117 ^ 
on the ' Agape ', 220 

Macedonius, on the Holy Spirit, 171 
Manicheus, Augustine's criticism, 82 
Marcion, his duahsm, 43-46, 51 
Marcus AureUus, sanction of persecu- 
tion, 33, 35 

Nestorius, action at Constantinople, 
his condemnation, 151-157 
Noetus, as a * Modahst ',121 

Origen, on the unity of Revelation, 
46, 125, 167 
on the necessity of Allegorism, 49- 

meaning of the Fall, 75-76, 96 
doctrine of Degrees ', 94-95 
doctrine of Pre-existence, 97-9 S 
ideal of divine Sonship, 125-128, 

on the Holy Spirit, 168 
symboUsm of the Eucharist, 223 

Paul, Bishop of Emesa, ' reconcilia- 
tion ',154 

Paul of Samosata, ' Adoptionist ' 
Christolog)', 119 

Pelagius, and ' Pelagianism ', 107-109 

Philo, allegorism, 48-49 



Philo, his Logos doctrine, 67 
no idea of Incarnation, 113 

Plato, on the nature of the Soul, 16 
and ' Platonism ',68 
ideal of Illumination ', 78 

Plotinus, and Augustine, 54., 160-161 
ideal of ' Illumination ', 78 

Polycarp, on Tradition, 31 
teacher of Irenaeus, 39 

Porphyry, lost work, 144 

Praxeas, and TertuUian, 121-122, 178 

SabeUius, and ' Sabellianism ', I2i 
Seneca, and TertuUian, 93 
Serapion, on the Holy Spirit, 171 

TertuUian, defence of Christians, 33- 

on ' Heresy ', 39-40 
on Marcion, 44-46 
his materialism, 93 

TertuUian, on ' Substance ' and 
' Person ', 122-123, 177-178 

on the activity of the Holy Spirit, 

on Baptism, 213, 216-217 
Theodore of Mopsuestia, on Inter- 
pretation, 58-60 

on Creation, 100-102 

on Baptism, 100 

on the Humanity of Christ, 148- 
TheophUus of Antioch, Man's original 
condition, 91 

apparent statement of Trinitarian- 
ism, 166 

Vincent of Lerinum, on Tradition, 

Westcott, Bishop B. F., on Origen's 
doctrine of Resurrection, 95 



Date Due 

iUV 3 1887 _ _ 

.W ^ 7 



c. A. 

Leaders of early Christian tho main 
230M527I C.2 

3 12t,2 03073 0120